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Seabather's eruption is a rash that occurs when a swimmer is stung by marine life larvae. The condition has many names, including sea lice, pika-pika, sea poisoning, sea critters, and ocean itch.
Two types of marine life that generally cause this rash are:
Other types of marine life may also cause this rash.
Shortly after being stung, a swimmer may complain of skin discomfort. The rash develops in a few minutes to 12 hours after swimming. The rash consists of raised, hard or soft bumps, or blisters of different shapes and sizes that appear very red and may be extremely itchy. The larvae can become trapped in the fabric of a swimsuit, under swim caps and fins, and along the cuff edges of wet suits and T-shirts. The rash often appears in areas of the body that were covered.
Occasionally, other symptoms may occur with the rash, including nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, a general feeling of illness (malaise), pinkeye (conjunctivitis), and urethritis, the inflammation of the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body (urethra). Fever may occur, particularly in children.
Home treatment can help ease your discomfort and prevent other problems.
The rash will usually go away without medical treatment in 10 to 14 days. Watch for symptoms of infection while the rash is present. These include:
If these symptoms are present, seek medical attention.
Last Revised: April 22, 2013
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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