Sea Lice: Virginia Beachgoers Report 'Clear Thing With Blue Eyes' Making Them Itch
Beachgoers at Virginia Beach, Virginia, have been leaving the ocean with more than they bargained for. Swimmers reported being stung by tiny jellyfish larvae, also known as sea lice.
Lifeguards told WTKR of reports that the critters are on the rise at the beach. The larvae can irritate the skin, causing bumps or a rash. The effects are sometimes called "seabather's eruption."
Because the animals are so small, they can get trapped in bathing suits and hair. The best way to get rid of them is to rinse your skin, and your clothes, with clean water.
Local Cade Welsh, who has lived in the area for four years, told WTKR: "It felt like sand on your clothes and then it started to feel like things were biting you… if you, like, scratch, it will feel like sand and if you look, you'll see a clear thing with blue eyes."
One young girl visiting from New York said: "We started running up to the shore, and then we felt around and there was stuff crawling on us."
The larvae are common in the Atlantic Ocean. Lifeguards weren't sure why there seemed to be an uptick at Virginia Beach this week.
Virginia bathers aren't alone in their struggles with sea lice. Last week, Bahamian officials said reports of stings had risen, according to local outlet Tribune 242.
The country's health minister warned beachgoers to watch out for the creatures. He advised women to wear two-piece bikinis instead of one-piece bathing suits to stop the larvae getting trapped. He also suggested treating irritated skin with calamine lotion.
Outbreaks of sea lice are common in Florida, with reports of stings going back for decades, according to the researchers. One Miami resident described 1903 as the "year we were all poisoned...with some kind of rash which set up an intense itching," according to a report by the Florida Department of Health.
The unnamed local added: "It was not so bad for us as we could stay home and doctor ourselves with lotions but the poor men having to work in the fields or hot packing houses were the ones who really suffered."
Last summer, swimmers at Ocean City Beach in Maryland described "losing their minds" over intense itching caused by sea lice.
The name "sea lice" is something of a misnomer, given the creatures are actually jellyfish or sea anemone larvae. Real sea lice do exist, but they only affect fish.