If you are wondering: ‘What do sea lice bites look like?’ then the photo above shows you!
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?! Araargghh. there are too many sea lice! Sydney has millions and they all seem keen to get close to me!
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.
Sea lice tend to be more prevalent in the warm summer months and might be present in large numbers. If you start to feel mini stings as you swim, that could be sea lice.
So what are sea lice bites?
‘Sea lice bites’ is actually a complete misnomer, what we really have are lots of little stings, causing a rash. In the past, these rashes used to be known as seabather’s eruption. Australia has plenty of sea lice and plenty of eruptions.
The rash is called pruritic dermatitis if you want to get all technical.
The rash can be very itchy and annoying. It usually lasts two to four days but some unfortunate souls might be itching for up to two weeks,
Can you feel ‘sea lice’ as they 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.
Sea Lice Bites Treatment
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. We have used 1% hydrocortison from the chemist at times. Ibuprofen and panadol can also help.
Ice packs can really help too.
If the skin gets a red and sore, zoom straight to see a GP as the rash may have got infected. Yuck.
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.
Be careful not to put a wet cossie back on after being bitten. The nematocysts can live for a week in the wet swimming costume so you may be more sea lice bites if you put the wet cossie back on.
Top tip: Take the cossie off before you shower if at all possible.
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. Haha!!
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I hope this helps if you have some sea lice bites, Australia has many annoying creatures and these are not the worst of our biters (hello crocs and sharks) but they can be very annoying, especially for children.
Check out all the best swimming pools in Sydney on this post, no sea lice bites in our pools!