Complaints of sea lice popping up across the Jersey Shore. What to do if you are a victim
Lifeguards across the Jersey Shore, from Belmar to Cape May County, have dealt with complaints since the beginning of the month of sea lice.
“It’s pretty much a spring-loaded harpoon full of poison,” says Kerry Anderson, biology instructor with Jenkinson's Aquarium.
The tiny creatures are basically invisible when in the water, and when stuck to your body -- they're the size of sand grains. But if you look closely, they move.
The creatures are actually jellyfish larvae, and they get stuck on your body under your bathing suit. The larvae contain stinging cells and when agitated or touched, they inject the toxins into your skin. The larvae are juvenile thimble jellyfish, more commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico and off of Florida, but back in July, the warm currents carried them to the Jersey Shore.
Most people complain of itching and burning, but for others -- it can leave nasty welts all over your body.
Swimmers will start to notice something isn't right after being in the water for a few minutes, but it's when they get out when they feel the itching and stinging after the larvae become agitated from being trapped between the skin and the fabric.
“They are getting stuck in people's bathing suits,” says Anderson. “If it's in your bathing suit, it's going to touch your skin more, and the more contact you have with it, the more stings you're going to get.”
If you are a victim, get home and take off your bathing suit right away. Shower and wash the suit in hot water with detergent to kill the remaining larvae. Also tell a lifeguard so they can warn other swimmers.
"The best thing to do is hot shower, wash your bathing suit in detergent and hot water and if you're having a real major reaction or allergic reaction, you want to go get checked out,” says Jenkinson's Chief Lifeguard Dean Albanese. “But over-the-counter antihistamines for anti-inflammatory would work fine on any of this swelling.”
Experts at Jenkinson's Aquarium say it's important to make sure you get all of the larvae out of your bathing suit because even after they're dead, they can still sting you.