What are Sea Lice


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What are Sea Lice?
The name 'Sea lice' can refer to one of two groups of organisms in the sea - the parasites that attack fish (such as salmon and trout) like the picture below, or the larva stage of sea life such as Jelly fish and anemones. Both forms of sea lice affect humans who spend time at sea (fishermen) or in the sea (swimmers), but neither in a pleasant way. We have separated some of the major facts about both types of sea lice, below. If you are going on a beach holiday where you know sea lice are prevalent, it is a good idea to educate yourself first so that your time away isn't spoilt.

Salmon Sea Lice
Sea lice (plural of sea louse) are copepods from the Order, Siphonostonmatoida. There are many different types of sea lice which strike and damage fish all over the world (certainly in fish farms), yet the majority of information and recent studies seem to relate to a particular species known as Lepeophtheirus salmonis, which attacks salmon found in the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lice are ectoparasites (live and feed on the outside of their host) that live in the sea and feed on the blood, mucus and tissue of marine fish. They can kill certain types of fish if the infestation is severe enough (larger fish cope with sea lice better than the majority of smaller fish) and chemicals have been developed to target and treat the sea lice so fish farms aren't ruined.

Sea Lice Bites
Little is known on how sea lice locate their hosts, but it is believed that light, temperature, currents and timing play a major part. An interesting fact is that when anadromous fish return to fresh water (like salmon do), the sea lice fall off and die. Sea lice have specially formed mouthparts shaped like a siphon to allow them to feed and antennaes/limbs to help attach them to the fish. The female sea louse is able to produce between 5 and 11 pairs of egg-strings (which have 500-1000 eggs on!) in their lifetime of roughly 7 months. Eggs hatch and go through various moult stages, but find their host by the third stage (copepodid stage). The sea lice attach themselves in an area with the least amount of hydrodynamic disturbance and feed before reaching the chalimus stage of their lifecycle. Four further moults take place before they reach adulthood.

Sea Lice

pic of sea lice

Sea Lice Rash
Sea lice is also the name given to small stinging marine organisms that can cause painful and unsightly rashes if brushed up against in the open water. These are found in the sea all over the world but they can usually be avoided if you know the seasons/months they are prevalent. There are sites dedicated to alerting holiday makers about sea lice before they visit places such as Mexico and Thailand so that their time there isn't spoilt. However, you will probably be made aware by the dedicated holiday rep, management of the hotel/complex you stay at, others on vacation, lifeguards or by signs and leaflets at the beach. A telltale sign of reasons to not go in the water is when everyone else is on land. It sounds straight forward but it's definitely something to remember - always exercise caution. If it isn't dangerous fish, it could be coral or even dangerous tides.

Sea Lice Treatment
Sea lice have stinging cells which when brushed up against can cause painful and sore rashes. You could also develop welts as a result of being 'stung', but most suffer burning and itching sensations. They are so small and difficult to see that you won't realise what has happened until its too late. Not only can sea lice sting your skin, they can also contaminate bathing suits and hats with toxins released as a defence mechanism. Sometimes the results of this is that people develop the rash again weeks later. Therefore if you think sea lice have stung you, wash your bathing suit on a high temperature to clear any stinging cells that remain and seek soothing creams or gels to alleviate the pain of any rashes. A mild soap may help clean the area and stop further infection and then you could apply calamine lotion or an antihistamine. Local people will normally be able to advise what the best sea lice treatment is, so ask around.




Cure for Sea Lice
There are also products that claim to be repellents of sea lice, however we're not sure that these work. The best suggestion for preventing sea lice stings would be to avoid going into the water. If there aren't any advisory signs notifying the public of sea lice, then there's not much you can do - these parasites are so tiny that you won't be able to spot them before they sting you. However, if you research the likelihood of sea lice prior to leaving for vacation you'll give yourself a better chance of avoiding them. Also consider when the sea lice season is. It will vary depending on where you are in the world but the months of April to July are said to be bad in certain holiday destinations (such as Cancun) so question the hotel or ask your holiday advisor for peace of mind.

Thousands of people search to find out about different types of louse and how to get rid of them. Fortunately there are so many products available on line, you should be able to find what you want without too much of a problem. We hope that you have found this article a useful guide and that any questions you may have had have been answered. You will find that this website is a great resource, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by these parasites and we hope you have located the treatment you may need, be it a lotion, cream, medication or shampoo. Treatments and remedies should be sought after quickly and if you have crabs you should seek medical advice so they cannot be spread or infect others.

Sea Lice

Sea Lice Bites Treatment

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