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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
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.
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
If these symptoms are present, seek medical
May 20, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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