Sea Bather's Eruption

Sea bather’s eruption is an allergic or inflammatory reaction to the larvae of jellyfish, coral and sea anemones. The larvae get trapped underneath bathing suits or clothing and possibly releases a toxin which elicits the immune reaction. In contrast to swimmer’s itch, which is seen on exposed skin, sea bather’s eruption is strictly seen on skin areas which have been covered by clothing like bathing suits.

The lesions are typically red pimple or prickly like eruptions with or without small boils on top.

Where does it occur?

This is primarily seen along the Eastern United States especially the Atlantic coast of Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean, usually during the summer months.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by swimming in ocean waters infested with larvae of jelly fish, corals and sea anemones.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low most of the time, but higher during summer months.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms begin a few hours after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Typically one sees a generalized red, pimple like rash that is itchy and involves the area of skin underneath clothing like bathing suits. A few may develop fever, fatigue and nausea if the area of involvement is large or rash is extensive. Many develop small blisters on the top of the rash which drain clear fluid.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

There are no lab tests; diagnosis is based on the history of exposure and appearance of the rash.

Is there any treatment?

One can apply topical remedies like calamine lotion, oat meal etc to the rash. Corticosteroid creams or Benadryl creams are also effective.

Is the infected person contagious?

No, there is no person to person transmission.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid swimming in oceans during periods of outbreak.

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