Sea lice have been found in South Jersey shore beach water, likely pushed to New Jersey from Florida by Tropical Storm Isaias.
Actually the larvae of stinging thimble jellyfish, the translucent creatures are almost invisible to the naked eye when they’re in water. Like mature jellyfish, the larvae are covered in cells that contain toxin-filled harpoons ready to launch into human skin.
When stinging jellyfish larvae find themselves caught in an armpit or under a swimsuit, their harpoon-shooting cells are activated. The resulting rash that can appear on your skin from their stingers is also called sea bather’s eruption. Toweling off only makes it worse: showering off in fresh water is the best response.
Reactions to the larvae stings include fever, headache, nausea, and infected blisters. Children can also develop high fevers. It can be treated with an over-the-counter 1 percent cortisone skin cream, and an oral antihistamine like Benadryl may also help. If there’s no improvement within a few days, call your primary care physician or dermatologist.
“According to Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey, sea lice “have already been found near Ocean City, Avalon and Stone Harbor, which means that they could spread north because of warm water and nutrients from Tropical Storm Isaias last week.
“As the summer continues to be hot and rainy, water temperatures rise, and pollution worsens, climate impacts will create even better conditions for sea lice to spread up and down our coast.” In addition:
The South Jersey sea lice sightings show that problems with warming waters and nutrient runoff is increasing, and are a direct result of the “failure to deal with fertilizer runoff, leaky sewer pipes, and septics” — which shows that we need to do more to both tackle stormwater runoff and leaky sewer pipes as well as climate change.”
“This is a direct result of problems from both climate change and stormwater runoff,” says Tittel. “We must work to retrofit storm basins and restore watersheds, wetlands and stress, and preserve environmentally sensitive areas. Otherwise we will continue to see more problems along the shore like sea lice.”
Mature stinging jellyfish have been known to show up in New Jersey waters near the end of summer when the water is warmer.