Since moving down south, I’ve had to learn all kinds of different rules about swimming in Florida. I’ve had to learn about what times sharks are busiest (or should I say hungriest?), how to do the stingray shuffle and… wait, these things are jellyfish?!? But in addition to the more obvious threats involved with swimming in Florida, there is also something known as Seabather’s Eruption. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
What is Seabather’s Eruption?
Seabather’s Eruption, otherwise known as Sea Poisoning, Ocean Itch or Pruritic Dermatitis, is a reaction to the larva of thimble jellyfish and sea anemones. These tiny creatures become trapped in the bathing suits of swimmers that encounter them and, anywhere from 4-24 hours after contact, can create an intense and itchy red rash. They can be such bothersome pests that they are often referred to as sea critters, pika-pika or sea lice, even though they aren’t related to lice at all.
Bather’s Eruption Symptoms
People suffering from Seabather’s Eruption can have a variety of symptoms, but the most common is the itchy red rash, usually restricted to the vicinity of the bathing suit. Some people have reported a painful or stinging sensation immediately after encountering the jellyfish, but it’s more commonly seen several hours after the person stops swimming. In more severe cases, people experience flu-like symptoms, such as headache, nausea and vomiting, or general malaise.
Treating Seabather’s Eruption
Treating Bather’s Eruption is fairly easy and deals mostly with keeping the rash clean to prevent infection. However, following these tips will help alleviate some of the itch and pain associated with the condition.
– If you suspect you may have the start of Seabather’s Eruption, do not rub or scratch at your skin. If the jellyfish are still on your skin, doing so may cause them to sting you further, complicating your condition. Instead, take off your swimsuit as soon as possible and then shower with fresh water. Do not, however, shower with your bathing suit on – if your suit is contaminated and you do this, the fresh water will make them sting you worse.
– Take a nice hot shower as soon as you’re able to. Also be sure to use lots of soap and scrub your skin thoroughly, paying particular attention to any areas that your bathing suit covers. Rinse well and dry off thoroughly. You will want to wash the rash every day with soap and water, keeping it clean and dry to prevent infection.
– If the itching sensation is intense, try applying hydrocortisone cream to the affected area or you can take an antihistamine to help control the reaction. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor, just to make sure this doesn’t react with any of the other medications you may currently be on. Also check with your pediatrician before administering any antihistamines to children under the age of 12.
– An ice pack may be applied to help relieve pain.
Fortunately, most cases of Seabather’s Eruption can be treated at home and do not require medical assistance. If you experience an increased amount of pain, swelling or warmth in the area, you should seek medical treatment. Also conditions that should be seen by a doctor are if you notice red streaks extending out from the affected area, any fever or chills, swollen lymph nodes (in the armpit, neck or groin area) or if there is any drainage of pus.
Preventing Seabather’s Eruption
The best way to avoid Seabather’s Eruption, particularly if you’ve suffered a previous outbreak, is to avoid swimming in salt water. Thimble jellyfish are most common between the months of March and August, so it’s best to avoid swimming in the Gulf or the waters off Florida during these months. If you do go swimming, however, here’s some helpful tips to help prevent the risk of Seabather’s Eruption.
– If you know you’re susceptible and you simply must go in the water, try wearing a wet suit. Wet suits are more difficult for them to get trapped in.
Do not wear a tee-shirt when you go in the water – loose shirts act like a net, blousing out in the water and then scooping the little sea critters up. When you get out… schwoop! That tee-shirt sticks right in against you and traps your new little friends right with it.
– Take your bathing suit off immediately. Removing your bathing suit while it’s still wet will lessen your chances of getting stung.
– Take a warm salt water shower to wash the jellyfish away. Fresh water will kill them and may cause them to sting as they die. If salt water is not available, then a hot fresh water shower can be used – just be sure to really soap up the areas that were covered by the suit.
– Rinse your bathing suit out thoroughly or wash with laundry detergent and be sure to dry well, using a warm air setting – this should get rid of any remaining sea critters.
http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=16889- Information on Seabather’s Eruption
http://children.webmd.com/tc/seabathers-eruption-topic-overview – Information on Seabather’s Eruption