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Naked Bits

Study: Swim naked to avoid sea lice

The editors of the U.S. Public Health Service professional journal advise people to swim nude to prevent sea lice infection.

The editors of the U.S. Public Health Service professional journal advise people to swim nude to prevent sea lice infection.

"In the interest of good public health research and practice, we feel compelled to note that abandoning swimming garments altogether, usually referred to as 'nude bathing' or 'skinny dipping,' might go a long way to reducing the occurrence of this disease," the editors wrote.

Their suggestion appears in an issue of Public Health Reports, at the bottom of a study about the risk of developing the seabather's eruption, a rash that can afflict ocean swimmers from March to August.

The rash, commonly called sea lice, generally appears in areas of the body covered by swimsuits because microscopic jellyfish get trapped beneath the material and release a venom that irritates the skin.

Chances of an outbreak are made greater by failing to remove the swimsuit and to shower immediately after leaving the ocean, health officials say.

"We don't know whether it is obedience to social mores or a commercial link to the fashion industry that has prevented the authors from suggesting an important preventive strategy for seabather's eruption in an otherwise excellent article," the journal's editors wrote in suggesting nude swimming.

"It's true. If you don't wear a swimsuit, you probably won't get a sea lice rash," said Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department and a co-author of the study. But the nude-bathing suggestion from the editors was a little more than she expected.

Lifeguards and beach officials from Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties chuckled at the idea, but said they would warn swimmers that they face arrest if they strip off swimsuits.

"I'm speechless over the prospect," said John Robinson, assistant manager at the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park on Singer Island. "Then again, if a man or woman is in the ocean over their chest, no one's going to be able to tell whether they have a bathing suit on."

Lifeguards along Miami Beach, where women are allowed to bathe topless, said sea lice rashes on the upper torso on people without tops are rare.

And Larry Fleischman, the unofficial "mayor" of Haulover Beach in Dade County — which includes a quarter-mile stretch that constitutes the only nude bathing area in South Florida — said the Public Health Service suggestion was on the mark.

"The sea lice get under your bathing suit, and when they feel the friction with skin, they release their venom," said Fleischman, 67. "Here at Haulover Beach, we don't have to worry about that."

Original story is from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

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1 Comment

  1. Another great reason all beaches should be clothing optional.

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