Good morning, have you been for a swim in the ocean lately?
Encountered any stinging sea creatures?
I’m starting a wee series on Sydney’s Most Annoying And Itchy Animals. Where better to start than those pesky sea lice?!
What are sea lice?
Well, what we call sea lice, the wee beasties that left so many itchy rash marks are not lice at all.
Real sea lice infest salmon and are absolutely disgusting. If you want to make yourself vomit just do a google image search on ‘sea lice salmon’ and grab a bucket.
The mini stingers we get around Sydney are actually larvae of jellyfish. I’d love to show you a photo, but they are colourless and miniscule so I’ve never even seen one far less taken a photo.
These tiny terrors have the same stinging cells as the adults. The scientific name for these cells is nematocysts, my mate Rosie taught me that word years ago.
So ‘sea lice bites’ is actually a complete misnomer, and in fact these rashes used to be known as seabather’s eruption.
The rash is called pruritic dermatitis if you want to get all technical.
Can you feel ‘sea lice’ sting?
In my experience, you feel a few little stings when you swim into a patch of these little stinging larvae. But after that, no stinging as you swim.
Then you leave the water, and about six hours later wonder why you have this itchy rash in the places your cossie covered.
The thing is that the little jellyfish larvae have got caught in your cossie and have fired off their stinging nematocyst cells.
How To Avoid ‘Sea Lice Bites’
After the rash seen in these pictures, I have wised up and if I ever feel a few mini stings in the water I take my cossie off as soon as I get out of the ocean and shower down, washing all the wee stinging cells off my skin.
Top tip: Take the cossie off before you shower if at all possible.
How To Treat ‘Sea Lice Bites’
Don’t itch them.
Easier said than done!
You can try washing the area with a bit of vinegar, or visit a pharmacist and ask advice, there are anti-itch lotions and potions which may help.
If the skin gets a red and sore, zoom straight to see a GP as the rash may have got infected. Yuck.
Swimming nude will alleviate this sea lice problem. No cossies to get caught in = few or no ‘sea lice bites.’
Swim nude in winter, as ‘sea lice’ usually are worst in summer.
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So who’s up for a nude swim in Sydney?
Oh come on, join in the fun!