Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Seabather's Eruption

Seabather's Eruption

Condition Basics

What is seabather's eruption?

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.

What causes it?

Two types of marine life that generally cause seabather's eruption are:

  • Thimble jellyfish (Linuche unguiculata). These are found seasonally in the water off the Florida coast and across the Caribbean. The jellyfish breed in the Caribbean throughout the summer, peaking in May. The larvae are barely visible, appearing like a speck of finely ground pepper.
  • Sea anemone (Edwardsiella lineata). These are found in the water off the coast of Long Island, New York. The larvae are small ( 2 mm to 3 mm).

Other types of marine life may also cause this rash.

What are the symptoms?

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.

How can you care for yourself?

Home treatment for seabather's eruption can help ease your discomfort and prevent other problems. Try the following treatments.

  • Do not rub your skin.

    If larvae are on your skin, rubbing will cause them to sting.

  • Remove your swimsuit as soon as possible.

    Since larvae can become trapped in the fabric of your suit, it is important to remove a contaminated suit to prevent more stings.

  • Wash your swimsuit.

    If available, rinse your suit in household vinegar or rubbing alcohol.

    Wash your suit in hot, soapy water and dry it in a dryer, if possible, before you wear it again.

  • Shower with fresh water.

    Apply soap and vigorously scrub your skin.

    Do not shower with a contaminated suit on. If larvae are trapped in the fabric of a suit, a freshwater shower will cause the larvae to sting.

  • Take an antihistamine or apply hydrocortisone cream (1%).

    These medicines can help control itching.

    Do not use the hydrocortisone cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to. Also, don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.

  • Use an ice pack.

    This can help relieve pain.

  • Keep the rash clean.

    Wash it every day with soap and water.

  • Watch for symptoms of infection while the rash is present.

    These symptoms include:

    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the affected area.
    • Red streaks extending from the affected area.
    • Drainage of pus from the area.
    • Fever or chills with no other known cause.

The rash will usually go away in 10 to 14 days.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Marine Stings and Scrapes Travel Health

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details