Getting rid of swimmer’s itch

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Swimmer’s itch is an itchy rash that happens after taking a swim or wading outdoors. The condition is common in ponds and freshwater lakes.

The condition causes a rash triggered by an allergic reaction to the parasites that burrow deep in the skin especially while swimming or just splashing in warm water. These parasites live in waterfowl and some animals and the parasites are released in the water. The itch caused by these parasites can be uncomfortable and usually disappear in a few days.

Symptoms of swimmer’s itch

  • The itch appears as reddish pimples or blisters and happens within minutes after swimming or wading
  • It affects only the exposed skin such as the legs, face and arms that are not covered by swimsuits.
  • Burning and itching sensation in the skin
  • Repeated exposure to the parasites can trigger severe symptoms.
  • Fever
    Swimmer's itch

    The itch appears as reddish pimples or blisters and happens within minutes after swimming or wading.

  • Nausea
  • Lack of sleep caused by severe itchiness

Causes

Parasites that cause the rash thrive in the blood of waterfowl and animals living near lakes and ponds. The eggs of the parasite enter the water through the feces of their host. Before infecting people and other animals, the hatched parasites live for the meantime within a type of snail that lives near the shoreline which is why infections occur in shallow water. Children are at high risk of swimmer’s itch since they usually stay or play in shallow water.

Treatment

  • Mix baking soda and a few drops of water until it becomes a paste and apply on the affected area to lessen the itchiness.
  • Take a lukewarm bath using Epsom salt or oatmeal to soothe the rashes. In a bathtub filled with lukewarm water, mix 1-2 cups of Epsom salt or oatmeal. Mix until totally dissolved and soak in the solution to relieve the itchiness.
  • Apply calamine lotion on the rashes to lessen the itching.
  • Avoid scratching the rashes to prevent the risk of developing impetigo which is a severe infection.
  • Spray apple cider vinegar on the rashes to minimize itchiness and lessen the allergic reactions.
  • Apply a cool wet compress on the skin to lessen the itching and inflammation.

Tips

  • Avoid swimming along the shoreline if possible.
  • Avoid swimming in areas contaminated by the parasites that causes swimmer’s itch. Avoid wading in marshy areas where there are plenty of snails.
  • Rinse properly after swimming and vigorously dry the body with a towel. Wash properly swimsuits and other swimming gear after swimming.
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  • All cprhcp.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

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