SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. - Purple flags are flying in South Walton, indicating a marine pest is in the water. The culprit is small jellyfish larvae - also called sea lice. And when the current moves in, so do the pests.
"They can come in and bathers will get hit," said David Vaughan, Beach Safety Director for South Walton Fire District. "A lot of the times they will get inside the bathing suits and that can be very uncomfortable."
The larvae can actually sting you. And while it may not be as strong as a full-grown jellyfish, they may still hurt.
"We do encourage people that the fastest, simplest thing you can do is use hot water - as hot as you can possibly use," said Vaughan.
The worst thing you can do is use ice or cold water. If you don't have access to hot water, use the sand or a credit card to scrape away the poison.
"Some people will have a reaction immediately," said Vaughan. "They'll feel it in the water. Sometimes people won't notice it until after they've gotten out of the water."
Just because the sea lice are around doesn't mean you should miss out on the sand and sun.
"I do love being out here enjoying the beach though, regardless of what's in the ocean," said Stephanie Burks, a South Walton visitor.
Fire District officials said they aren't exactly sure when the clouds will move - if at all. Beach goers should be sure to pay attention to the flags posted at the accesses. There is a chance the sea lice could stick around and develop into a bigger jellyfish population throughout the summer, but they can't be sure right now.
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