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Sea lice leave swimmers with itchy rashes

Cup Match swimmers across the Island have been left with itchy, sometimes painful rashes, caused by an influx of jellyfish larvae in local waters.

Popularly known as “sea lice”, the rash struck many who enjoyed Sunday's Non-Mariner's Race at Mangrove Bay in Somerset.

“Tons of people seem to have come down with it,” said local artist Alexandra Mosher, who was among the revellers. “I've never had it before, never heard of it before. But it's not pleasant.”

According to several online sources, however, the term “sea lice” is a misnomer. The Diver's Alert Network cautions: “Sea lice are actually fish parasites, do not affect humans, and have nothing to do with sea bather's eruption, which is caused by the larvae of jellyfish.”

Bathers found bumps and irritated skin, mainly on areas that had been covered by swimming costumes. Ms Mosher likened it to poison ivy rash.

“It's embarrassing,” she said. “It's just tiny red bumps. I have some on my arms and shoulders, but it's worst where I had my bikini.”

Her friend Laura Lyons said she had also felt stings while swimming after the race, but had suffered no lasting reaction.

“Perhaps it was my sunscreen,” she said. “I am very fair and use a thick zinc oxide sunscreen.”

Like many others across the Island, Ms Mosher attended a pharmacist on Monday, and was recommended hydrocortisone cream to alleviate the itches.

“I've been using Calamine lotion and antihistamines as well,” she said. “Now I'm just trying not to scratch it. It's said to last two days to two weeks. I'm hoping mine will be on the two-day end.”

The tiny Caribbean organisms are not new to Bermuda, but were news to many Bermudians many of whom learned of it via reports on social media.

“On Google it says they're in Cancun, Florida and anywhere in the Caribbean from April to August, but this is the first I've seen of it,” Ms Mosher said.

Flo Washington reported that her two-year-old granddaughter, who swam repeatedly along North Shore over the weekend, came down with a burning rash yesterday morning.

“I thought it was just a bad case of heat rash at first,” she said. “But for a little child, it looked pretty bad. We got hydrocortisone to help with it, and I tried zinc oxide as well.”

She said her two daughters, who also swam at the Non-Mariner's Race, came away with “rashes and little bumps”.

A number of cases have been reported to King Edward VII Memorial, and a Government spokesman said an advisory should be issued today on the matter.

Aside from using medicated ointments, authorities recommend vigorously washing affected swimwear.

Sea lice larvae

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Published August 03, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 03, 2011 at 9:14 am)

Sea lice leave swimmers with itchy rashes

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