THE SEVEN DAY ITCHPosted: June 28, 2012
Let’s get back to nagging problems with spots and their removal. The miserable marks I will now “cover” were all over my body a few weeks ago after a refreshing dip in the sea. While visiting my in-laws in sunny Florida, I noticed a purple flag billowing over the lifeguard stand down on the beach. Imagining large critters lurking in the invitingly aqua water, I cautiously splashed in the shallow edge of the Atlantic, enjoying cool, clear waves splashing over my warm body. Keeping an eye out for Bruce the Shark or some of his mates, I fooled around in the surf while tracking the planes soaring overhead. It was a typical, carefree morning in/on Palm Beach.
Too late, I would read: March through August is “sea lice season” along the southeast Florida Atlantic coastline. Sea Bather’s Eruption, commonly known as “sea lice”, is caused by a larval (microscopic) form of the thimble jellyfish. These larvae are so small they are barely visible. When people swim in the affected ocean water, the larvae become trapped in bathing suits and cause tiny stings. The toxins released from these stings cause itching, irritation, and welts several hours later. The itching usually lasts 2-4 days, but can last as long as 2 weeks. Some people have more severe reactions: headache, fever, nausea, and infected blisters. Children may develop high fever.
My misery set in approximately twenty-four hours later as we window- shopped in downtown Palm Beach. As chicken pox-looking spots popped out on my body, I felt the possibility of anaphylactic shock coming on, an experience I had survived in my twenties after being stung by an insect while swimming in a pool. As fate would have it, my symptoms peaked as I stood outside a drugstore. Thinking fast, I approached the pharmacist who took quick action. He handed me a packet of pills, a tube of gel, and a bottle of water to swallow one of the magic meds. Next he directed me across the street to PUBLIX to buy a bottle of vinegar. My orders were to undress, and pour the vinegar over my body to release toxins. So there I was locked in a stall of the supermarket ladies’ room bathing my itching body in Heinz vinegar. I smelled like a salad as I smoothed the miraculous gel over my spotted self. Within minutes I found relief, as more welts appeared up and down legs, arms and torso. (Thank god I did not put my head under water that fateful morning…)
I spent the rest of the afternoon lying in a soothing tub of water/white vinegar /baking soda–wondering if I’d ever venture into the ocean again. It turned out my case ran longer than the average 2-4 days; it was one week before I stopped itching and trying not to scratch as the bites began fading. Admittedly, I had flu-like symptoms the following week, and was not up to my usual super powers at TABATA the third week, or should I say weak. Now nearly a month since my attack at sea, I am fine, physically anyway.
A compulsive writer, I need to relate my sadly serious sea story, and hope all you readers will take care if and when bathing in waters along the southeast Florida coast. In addition to keeping watch for cruel creatures in the Atlantic, look for my upcoming book, “Naked Joy”, coming to book stores still open.