When I swim in the sea around Singapore, I get stinging/prickling/electric sensations on my skin in certain areas of the water sometimes. There aren't any visible creatures nearby.

What are these?

I don't remember having any itching or symptoms on my skin after that, although I could try it again and observe for any itching or red patches a few days after.

  • 2
    But it isn't kind of this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seabather's_eruption, is it?
    – OddDeer
    Nov 23, 2015 at 10:03
  • chemical contaminants in the water?
    – Abela
    Nov 23, 2015 at 10:23
  • Maybe it's sand?
    – jmn
    Nov 23, 2015 at 11:03
  • 9
    In order to better help point you in the right direction, we may need additional information. A "stinging/prickling/electric sensation" is only one symptom. Were there any other symptoms (such as visible changes to your skin before, during, and/or after the exposure to seawater, heightened sensitivity or numbness, as well as how long the sensation lasted and when did it go away)? A whole slew of things can effect a correct diagnosis. Any additional relevant information can help us point you in the correct direction.
    – Zach L
    Nov 23, 2015 at 21:12
  • 5
    Jelly fish, there are tiny jelly fish which are invisible while in water, you're likely getting stung by jellyfish.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 24, 2015 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


I think a reasonable guess would be jellyfish larvae, also known as "sea lice."

Sea lice are actually the microscopic larvae of jellyfish and other ocean stingers which contain the same nematocysts (stinging cells) as mommy and daddy. (They) are probably the most commonly encountered stinging threat to divers and swimmers at the beach.

There's a wide range of symptoms:

Common symptoms of sea lice stings include an intensely itchy red rash with small blisters and elevated areas of skin. These painful and unsightly lesions may appear anywhere on the body but are often concentrated in areas covered by swimwear as large numbers of larvae often become trapped in these regions. Severe reactions to sea lice exposure may include fever, chills, headaches, nausea and vomiting, especially in children. Extreme allergic reactions may require hospitalization in rare cases.

I've used these resources from "Buy Safe Sea" but googling "Singapore sea lice" will bring up many references to a stinging sensation from these tiny creatures.

Make sure to read this article about Seabather's eruption.

  • 2
    I don't think that this can be the solution, cause you don't have symptoms while in the water: "Initial swimmer exposure to the free-floating larvae produces no effects, as each organism possesses only a single undeveloped nematocyst which is inactive while suspended in sea water. (...) Once the swimmer leaves the ocean, the organisms stuck against the skin die and automatically discharge their nematocysts when crushed, dried out, or exposed to fresh water." So, you don't feel anything while swimming.
    – OddDeer
    Mar 7, 2016 at 12:34
  • 1
    Even if it's not the larvae, 10 to 1 that it's some form of jellyfish. They're often quite small with long thin stingers/tentacles and most small species are very transparent. They tend to not move a lot and just drift along the currents, making them even harder to see.
    – Monster
    Jan 14, 2018 at 15:38

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