Oahu Ocean Safety: Limu (Stinging Seaweed)
Description, sting symptoms and treatment
Around Oahu, Lyngbya (common name) is active mainly, but not limited to, the months from June to September on the Windward side of the island. The Hawaiians call this "stinging seaweed" Limu. The fine, dark-brown seaweed, which looks like piles of matted hair, can get under your swimsuit producing a rash.
Common signs of stings are burning or itching, minutes or up to 24 hours after being in the water, lasting anywhere from 4 to 48 hours. The rash commonly occurs in areas covered by the swimsuit, but not always. It frequently appears in the genital and anal areas. Nose and throat irritation, skin sores, headache, and fatigue sometimes also occur. Some people experience no rash but have swelling of the mouth and eyes.
Exposed eyes should be rinsed with tap water for at least 15 minutes. For moderate skin rash, remove your swimsuit immediately and cleanse the skin vigorously with soap and water. Be sure to wash your swimsuit and towel well. You may treat the rash as a sunburn, applying wet towels and soothing creams. Rubbing alcohol may help with pain. For itching, ask your doctor or pharmacist about 1% Hydrocortisone ointment and one or two 25mg Benadryl (Diphenhydramine), both sold without prescription. Diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness so don't drive, swim, snorkel, dive, surf, etc. after taking it.
Of course, for anything more than moderate symptoms, consult a doctor. Any difficulty breathing may indicate a serious allergic reaction which is a medical emergency. Call 911!
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