Swimmers Itch

This rash develops when tiny parasites that live in the water burrow under the skin and die.




This rash develops when tiny parasites that live in the water burrow under the skin and die.



Swimmer's itch (schistosome cercarial dermatitis) is caused by a parasite found in the waste and droppings of infected water animals, such as ducks and muskrats. Humans become infected when they swim in the contaminated water.

  • Symptoms are usually mild after the first exposure to the parasite.
  • Subsequent exposures can result in more severe symptoms.

Swimmer's itch is an allergic rash that can develop if you swim in water that is contaminated with an organism that lives in or on another organism (parasite). The parasites that cause swimmer's itch are more prevalent in shallow water.

  • When you swim in the affected water, the parasites can attach themselves to your uncovered skin.
  • They then burrow under your skin and die, which causes irritation and inflammation.

Swimmer's itch is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.

The symptoms of swimmer's itch include small, reddish bumps that itch. Usually the itching stops and the affected areas begin to heal on their own within a week. To control the itching, your healthcare provider may suggest:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines
  • Corticosteroid cream or anti-itch lotion
  • Cool compresses
  • Oatmeal, baking soda or Epsom salts baths
  • Apply baking soda paste to the rash (a mixture of baking soda and water)

If your symptoms do not improve, you may need to see your healthcare provider for prescription medication or creams.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of swimmer's itch that are severe or not responding to home treatment. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any areas you were swimming in and if there was any known or possible contamination of the water.
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • How can I prevent swimmer's itch?
  • What is the treatment for swimmer's itch? What options are available?
  • How long will it take my symptoms to improve?
  • What are some of the complications of swimmer's itch? Am I at high risk for complications?
  • If medication is recommended, how long will I need to take it? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Swimmers Itch
Schistosomiasis
Rash
Allergic Rash


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