Swimmer’s itch, also medically known as cercarial dermatitis, refers to a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These parasites are released in salt and fresh water by infected snails. When one swims outdoors, these parasites penetrate into your skin which produces the rash. Swimmer’s itch does not spread from a person to another person so one need not worry about catching swimmer’s itch from someone who has this rash.
CAUSES OF SWIMMER’S ITCH
The parasites that cause swimmer’s itch thrive in the blood of waterfowl and in animals that live in proximity to ponds and lakes. Examples consist of geese, ducks, gulls, beavers and muskrats. The eggs of the parasites enter the water via the hosts’ feces. The hatched parasites must live for a period of time within a type of snail before infecting birds, animals or people. Since these snails live near the shore line, most infections commonly occur in shallow water.
SYMPTOMS OF SWIMMER’S ITCH
The symptoms become severe due to repeated exposure to contaminated water. The risk of developing serious and immediate symptoms increases with continual swimming in contaminated water. One may experience burning, itching or a tingling sensation initially at the exposed area. One may see small reddish pimples after 12 hours that later develop into blisters. The rash occurs only in areas exposed to the water. Since the parasites die once it penetrates the human body, the parasites do not spread from one person to another.
TREATMENT OF SWIMMER’S ITCH
Since there are no blood tests which can identify that the itching is caused by the cercaria parasite, swimmer’s itch is difficult to be diagnosed. It is often mixed up with other diseases such as chicken pox, poison ivy or even herpes because it exhibits similar symptoms. These symptoms usually get resolved in one to two weeks so this condition does not require medical attention. Nevertheless, anti-itch creams and antihistamines are used to subside the itching. If the itching is severe, the doctor may prescribe some medicine to reduce the itching. One should remember to avoid scratching because it can increase the risk of infections. Unless one has severe itching, one can try these home remedies to subside the itch. They are explained below.
- One can apply a cold compress.
- One can apply a paste of water and baking soda to the affected area.
- One can take a bath in baking soda or Epsom salts.
- One can wash the rash with diluted vinegar.
One should also avoid wearing clothes that irritate the skin. One can wear cotton clothes instead of synthetic fabrics. It is always advisable for one to take a shower after they go for a swim in a pond or lake.