The weather is getting nice and many turn thoughts to swimming. Before jumping into your local pond, lake, river, or ocean, you need to be aware of Swimmer's Itch.
What is swimmer's itch?
Swimmer's Itch is a temporary skin irritation you may get after swimming in a pond, lake, river, or ocean. It is caused by a parasite. On or near the water, there may be snails that are infected with the parasite. The snails pass the parasite on to the birds living near the water. Sometimes the parasite contacts humans who are swimming in the water. The itching usually happens after the contaminated water has dried from the skin. The itching may begin within a few hours of swimming or not until a day or two later.
What are the symptoms of Swimmer’s Itch?
The first symptom is itching. It may start as soon as 1 to 2 hours after you leave the water. Usually, the itching is mild, at first. The itching may go away, then return after several hours. The itching is usually more intense when it comes back. The itching may last a week.
A pinpoint red rash may develop, but you can have itching without ever getting a rash. Both the itch and rash are likely to get worse each time you are exposed to water contaminated with the parasite.
How is Swimmer’s Itch it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will take your history and examine your skin. Tell your provider where you were swimming or wading. There is no specific test to diagnose Swimmer's Itch. It is usually diagnosed by an experienced provider who is familiar with the problem in your area.
How is Swimmer’s Itch treated?
There is no specific treatment for swimmer's itch. It usually goes away on its own within a week after you were in the water. Hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl can help the itching. Use Benadryl with caution because it can cause drowsiness.
How long will the effects of Swimmer’s Itch last?
The itch and rash may last just a few hours or several days. It is unusual for the symptoms to last longer than a week. However, if you scratch too much, you may break the skin making you susceptible to infection. If your skin becomes infected, there may be more redness and pain at the site and sometimes crusting or pus on the skin. If this happens, you should call your healthcare provider because you may need treatment for infection.
What can I do to prevent swimmer's itch?
Currently medications to prevent Swimmer's Itch exist. You can ask public health officials in the area where you will be wading or swimming about whether the parasite is a problem in that area. In some areas, chemicals are used to kill the infected snails in an attempt to prevent Swimmer’s Itch.