ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - Rashes, nausea, scratchy eyes and sore throats.
Those are only some of the symptoms people are reporting after coming in contact with blue-green algae.
For years, those symptoms have been reported following algae exposure from the St. Lucie River. But now, reports are coming from people experiencing symptoms after spending time in the ocean.
Daniel Schalk loves to free dive and go spear fishing off the coast of Fort Pierce.
This week, he says he found what he believed to be blue-green algae as far as ten miles off the coast.
He posted pictures to Facebook of lime-green algae floating on the surface of the water.
Initially, he was shocked to see the algae so far out to sea, and farther north than Martin County where the beaches had been seeing signs of algae.
“I feel sorry for those people, but man I got it good here. And then, you know, we went out the other day and there it was,” Schalk said.
Moments after he came up from a dive and got back onto his boat, he says he started feeling the symptoms of possible algae exposure.
“I asked, you know, is your face burning? My face is burning all through here and everywhere and my hands were starting to burn and my feet were starting to burn,” Schalk said.
It’s hard for doctors to determine a diagnosis of algae exposure when someone comes to a doctor complaining of symptoms like a runny nose, scratchy eyes, sore throat or even diarrhea or nausea, since they can be tied to many conditions.
Doctors say you should still see them if you believe your symptoms are algae related.
“It would be very quick. I would say within a couple hours you develop nausea and vomiting from ingestion. Skin rash, burning, wheezing would be pretty quick,” said Dr. Michael Romano with Martin Health System.
Now, Schalk is packing up his dive gear, not knowing when he will get back in the water.
“If I see that green stuff, I’m not diving… I hope that they fix the situation.”
If you do believe you’re suffering symptoms of algae exposure, a spokeswoman at the Martin County Health Department says you should do two things:
Contact your doctor. All doctors in the area have been told to keep track of patients reporting symptoms of algae exposure to report to the Florida Department of Health. The state is also in touch with the Centers for Disease Control.
Call the Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.