Saturday, 7 March 2009

Itchy all over, but it ain't sea lice

During the Sydney Harbour Ocean Swim I knew there was something upleasant going on in my togs. I could feel a bunch of critters nipping away at my flesh, caught as they were between my one-piece swimmers and my body.

After the swim I commented on this experience to Petulant Princess and we decided the best option was to strip off (behind a bush) and change into fresh clothes ASAP.

Alas, it was too late for moi. The night after the swim was fine, but by the Monday morning my torso was covered in a red rash, similar in appearance to chicken pox. The bites were raw and livid, raised and often clumped together. They were even on my back, following the shape of my cossie straps.

Fortunately, they weren't on my bottom or groin. However, my brother-in-law, Davo, wasn't so lucky. Yep, in his case they ventured into the budgie smugglers and the damage was done!

We concluded that it was sea lice. To confirm this, I did some research on the net to discover that the culprits are more likely to be jellyfish larvae.

It makes sense. Last Sunday the harbour was awash with jellies. And I spent a lot of my time swimming through groups of them.

An American website, Divers alert network, explains that the result of a jellyfish larvae assault is called 'sea bather's eruption', and it is caused by tiny laval forms which become trapped underneath bathing suits - and each larvae has stinging cells. 'Women wearing one-piece swimmers are vulnerable,' it warns.

The condition is apparently aggravated by:
* staying in swimmers after swimming
* showering in fresh water (with cossie still on, I suppose?)
* rubbing your body, still in cossie, with a towel

The bad news about sea bather's eruption is that the larvae can remain in cossies and there are reports of the condition recurring.

One week after the event I feel a lot better. The bites/stings are no longer itchy and they don't look half as nasty.

I don't know if there is any way to stop the larvae from jumping on board, though one bloke on the seabreeze blog (who wasn't sure what had bitten him) suggested dousing yourself in vinegar before heading into the water. It worked for him!

PS: Apparently, sea lice don't dig (so to speak) human flesh. They are a fish parasite and prefer to hang off salmon.


Monique Wood said...

You poor thing! Sounds awful.

Anonymous said...

I am still itchy, and now the one under where my watch was has become infected. I am going to wash my cossie again. Davo

Anonymous said...

I went in the ocean at Crescent Beach and only went wading in the water up to my knees. Afterwards when the salt water was drying on my legs I felt like I was being bitten by fleas. I now have dozens of itchy spots from the knees down, and some are raised bumps and looks like little blisters. Hmmmm. One of the many many nicknames my brothers had for me.... I'm only glad I never went for a complete swim like I was tempted to do. My "bites" are entirely unrelated to a swimsuit and seemed to happen as the salt water dried.