- By Michelle Ewing, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
As travelers flock to northwest Florida beaches this summer, an unwelcome guest may await them.
According to the Pensacola Beach Lifeguards Facebook page, purple warning flags indicating dangerous marine life have been flying along the shore this week thanks to an itch-inducing pest commonly called "sea lice."
WEAR-TV reports that the term is a misnomer: The creatures are really thimble jellyfish larvae, not lice, and cause a rash known as "seabathers' eruption."
"People affected by sea lice may feel a prickling sensation on their skin while in the water, but the rash caused by the microscopic organisms typically occurs several hours after exposure," the station reported.
The rash often can be treated with hydrocortisone and antihistamine creams available at most drug stores, according to the Florida Department of Health. If you have symptoms, you may need to see a dermatologist, the department said.
Swimmers can reduce their risk of being stung by not wearing T-shirts in the water, using sunscreen, practicing good hygiene and taking off wet swimsuits immediately after getting out of the ocean, the department reported.