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June 27, 2018 01:09 PM

Florida’s Department of Health is warning beachgoers about an outbreak of sea lice on the state’s northwest shores.

The beaches around Pensacola now have purple flags to alert swimmers about the underwater creatures, which leave itchy, irritated rashes with bumps and welts.

The sea lice are actually tiny jellyfish larvae and cells, Dave Greenwood, the director of public safety for Pensacola beaches, told the Pensacola News Journal.

“They aren’t very intense, which is why we call them sea lice and not sea hornets or sea wasps,” he said. “It’s just one of those you have to deal with when you go into the Gulf of Mexico. You are a land animal and the Gulf is not our native environment.”

Sea lice rash
Florida Department of Health

The Department of Health said in a report that the sea lice typically appear on Florida’s shores between March and August, with varying degrees of severity.

To avoid the sea lice, it’s actually best to wear less clothes than more, as the larvae get caught in one-piece bathing suits or t-shirts. The Department of Health recommends that women wear two-piece bathing suits, and everyone should avoid going in the water with a t-shirt. Once people get out of the ocean, they should remove their suit and shower as soon as possible, and wash their suit with detergent and dry it with heat.

Additionally, they advise each beachgoer to consider their history of rashes and any sensitivities before going in the water.

If swimmers do develop a rash, they should use antihistamine creams, calamine lotion and take an oatmeal bath.

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