'Sea lice' are actually not-so-cute baby jellyfish

Story highlights

  • "Sea lice," a.k.a. ocean itch or seabather's eruption, are actually microscopic marine larvae
  • The larvae are as small as speck of pepper
  • Their stings can cause itchy red rash and flu-like symptoms

(CNN)Sea lice. Beach lice. Seabather's eruption. Pika-pika. Ocean itch. Those are just some of the names given to a rash caused by a minuscule creature that often invades summer waters in Florida and the Caribbean, pestering swimmers with nasty bumps and sometimes flu-like symptoms.

As tiny as a speck of pepper or the period at the end of this sentence, sea lice are not lice at all but the microscopic larvae of marine life such as jellyfish and sea anemones. (Sea lice is also the name of a fish parasite that does not affect humans.)