Sea Lice

Uptick in Sea Lice Leads to Itchy Situation at Jersey Shore Beaches

Since the beginning of August, there have been several complaints from beachgoers about sea lice, according to Avalon Beach Patrol Lieutenant Ryan Black. 

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What to Know

  • Since the beginning of August, there have been several complaints from beachgoers about sea lice, according to Avalon Beach Patrol Lieutenant Ryan Black. 
  • The irritation or rash is normally mild but in some severe cases it can lead to big welts that require medical attention.
  • While sea lice are normally found in places with warmer water like Florida, Tropical Storm Isaias may have played a role in the increase of reports of them at the Jersey Shore, according to experts.

A recent uptick in sea lice is proving to be an itchy nuisance for many people at the Jersey Shore. 

Since the beginning of August, there have been several complaints from beachgoers about the tiny creatures, according to Avalon Beach Patrol Lieutenant Ryan Black. 

“They’re getting stung and they’re talking to the lifeguards and saying what can be done about it but there’s nothing we can do,” Lt. Black said. 

Lt. Black told NBC10 they received several reports of people being stung back on Aug. 1 at 28th Street in Avalon. 

“That day we had a huge crowd on 28th Street and almost all of them got out and they were reporting stinging and that kind of thing,” Lt. Black said. “It’s kind of continued throughout this week. We’re still having reports today and yesterday.”

While the creatures are often called sea lice or seabather’s eruption, they’re actually the larval form of a very small jellyfish called thimble jelly, according to experts. 

“What happens is that because they’re so small they tend to especially get under our clothing and then once that water with those larva are kind of trapped in there, the stinging cells start to go off and that’s when you start to get that irritation,” Dr. Paul Bologna, the Director of Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences at Montclair State University, told NBC10. 

The irritation or rash is normally mild but in some severe cases it can lead to big welts that require medical attention. Sea lice are normally more of an issue in places like Florida where the water is warmer, according to Dr. Bologna. He told NBC10 Tropical Storm Isaias is likely a factor in the recent reports of them at the Jersey Shore. 

“At this point, what we’re really starting to see is that they’re coming up along the eastern coast,” he said. “It is likely that they were traveling up the Gulf Stream and one of these storms helped bring that water closer to our shores and then it gets entrained into the coastal currents.”

Irritation from the stings can usually be treated with an antihistamine, over the counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion, similar to what you would use for an insect bite.

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