Sea lice warning posted for Florida Panhandle beaches

Grant Boone
June 28, 2018

'They aren't very intense, which is why we call them sea lice and not sea hornets or sea wasps, ' he said, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

The warm sunny weather has many flocking to the beach, but as the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, officials in Florida are warning beachgoers of an unpleasant organism lurking in the water along part of the coast.

It can be hard to avoid them in the water, but that did not stop people from going in the water at Pensacola Beach Tuesday.

Florida lifeguards have posted a purple flag warning on a number of area beaches alerting bathers to the danger of sea lice. The lice haven't been reported in other Gulf Coast beaches; Panama City, Destin, South Walton and Gulf Shores are all flying yellow flags, indicating the presence of potentially unsafe surf but no risky marine animals. These small pests can get caught in the clothing of swimmers, and contact with the skin can produce a sting through nematocysts, or small stinging structures that burst upon contact, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Florida's DoH says they can be prevalent from March through August at 250 miles of Florida beaches from the southern Atlantic up to the Panhandle.

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The rash-a form of dematitis-usually subsides in a week or less, but it can be accompanied by other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle spasms and more. The department doesn't track cases of sea lice.

The FDOH said it wasn't unusual to see 200 or more stings under a person's bathing suit.

The surface area of a bathing suit may also increase the area over which someone can get stung. "You are a land animal and the Gulf is not our native environment".

Wash your bathing suit thoroughly with detergent and then use heat to dry it. Air drying isn't enough. Treatment typically includes antihistamine and medications to lessen the itching. The condition - also known as seabather's eruption - is common at the beginning of the summer, according to Florida's Poison Control Centers.

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