Preventing Itching in Swimmers (July 2023) – District Health Department 10

Prevent itching in swimmers

important facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • It is possible to reduce the risk of itching in swimmers.
    • Avoid swimming where danger zone signs are posted or where swimmer itching is common.
    • You should also avoid swimming in wetlands where snails are common.
    • Other tips include drying or showering as soon as you get out of the water, and avoiding swimming in areas where birds are plentiful.
  • Signs and symptoms of itching in swimmers include:
    • You may notice tingling, burning, itching, small reddish pimples, or small blisters on your skin within minutes to days after swimming.
  • It is important to note that swimmer itch is not contagious.

Prevent itching in swimmers

Who doesn’t like taking a dip in the lake on a hot summer’s day? Well, certain microscopic parasites seem to like it and are just looking for a host to prey on. If you’re playing in a lake, pond, or shallow ocean area, you could be the host.of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides answers to frequently asked questions about itching in swimmers.

What is itching in swimmers?

Swimmer’s itch, also called cecaria dermatitis, manifests as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These parasites are released from infected snails into fresh and saltwater (lakes, ponds, seas, etc.). Preferred hosts for the parasites are certain birds or mammals, but when in contact with swimmers the parasites burrow into the skin and cause allergic reactions and rashes. Swimmer’s itch is found worldwide and is more frequent during the summer months.

How does water become infested with parasites?

Adult parasites live in the blood of infected animals such as ducks, geese, seagulls, swans, and certain mammals such as muskrats and raccoons. The parasite lays eggs, which are excreted in the faeces of infected birds and mammals.

If the egg falls or is swept into the water, it hatches and releases small, free-swimming larvae. These larvae swim underwater in search of specific species of aquatic snails.

When the larvae find these snails, they infect that snail and multiply and develop further. Infected snails release different types of microscopic larvae (or cercariae, hence the name cercariae dermatitis) into the water. The larvae swim around in search of suitable hosts (birds, muskrats) to continue their life cycle. Humans are not suitable hosts, but the microscopic larvae can burrow into a swimmer’s skin and cause allergic reactions and rashes. Since these larvae cannot develop inside the human body, they die quickly.

What are the signs and symptoms of itching in swimmers?

Symptoms of itching in swimmers include:

  • Skin tingling, burning, itching
  • small red pimples
  • small blisters

Skin tingling, burning, and itching may be felt within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water. Small reddish pimples appear within her 12 hours. Pimples may develop into small blisters. Scratching the area can cause a secondary bacterial infection. The itching may last for a week or more, but gradually subsides.

Swimmers’ itching is caused by an allergic reaction to an infection, so the more often they swim or walk in contaminated water, the more severe the symptoms are likely to occur. The more often a swimmer is exposed to contaminated water, the more intense and immediate the symptoms of itching in swimmers.

Keep in mind that swimmers’ itching isn’t the only rash that can occur after swimming in fresh or salt water.

Do I need to see a healthcare provider for treatment?

Most cases of itching in swimmers do not require medical attention. If you have a rash, try the following to help reduce your symptoms.

  • use corticosteroid creams
  • apply a cold compress to the affected area
  • Take a bath with Epsom salts or baking soda
  • Soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath
  • Apply baking soda paste to the rash (made by mixing baking soda with water until it forms a paste)
  • use an anti-itch lotion

It’s difficult, but be careful not to damage it. Scratching the rash can lead to infection. If itching is severe, your health care provider may suggest prescription-strength lotions or creams to relieve symptoms.

Can swimmer itch be passed from person to person?

Swimmer’s itch is not contagious and does not spread from person to person.

Who is at Risk for Swimmer’s Itch?

Anyone who swims or walks in infected waters can be at risk. Larvae are more likely to live in shallow water near the coastline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, walk, and play in shallow water more than adults. You’re also less likely to towel dry when you get out of the water.

Once swimmer’s itch occurs in water, does that water always become unsafe?

No, there must be many factors that make swimmer itching in the water a problem. Because these factors change (sometimes during swimming season), itching in swimmers is not always a problem. But there is no way of knowing how long the water will be unsafe. Larvae usually survive for 24 hours once released from the snail. However, infected snails continue to produce cercariae throughout the rest of their lives. For snails to become infected in the future, migratory birds and mammals in the area must also be infected so that their life cycle can continue.

Is it safe to swim in my pool?

yes. As long as swimming pools are properly maintained and chlorinated, there is no risk of itching for swimmers. A suitable snail must be present for swimmer’s itch to occur.

What can be done to reduce the risk of itching in swimmers?

To reduce the likelihood of developing itching in swimmers

  • Do not swim where itching is known to be a problem for swimmers or where signs are posted warning of dangerous waters.
  • Do not swim or walk near wetlands where snails are common.
  • Towel dry or shower as soon as you get out of the water.
  • Do not attract (e.g., feed) birds to areas where humans are swimming.
  • Encourage health authorities to post signs along shorelines where swimmer itching is a current problem.

quick link

CDC | Parasite-Cercarial Dermatitis (also called Swimmer’s Itch)

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