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Swimmer's Itch and Treatments


By Staff Writer

Swimmer's Itch and TreatementsSwimmer's itch is a rash that can develop after people swim or wade in contaminated water. Certain microscopic parasites in the water can attach to the skin and cause irritation. These parasites can live in both salt and fresh water worldwide and usually infect people in the summer months. The symptoms of swimmer's itch include itching or burning rashes. These symptoms typically begin a few hours after swimming. In some cases, small pus-filled blisters develop two to three days after infection and last for several days. Swimmer's itch generally clears up without treatment, but the irritating and uncomfortable symptoms can last up to two weeks.

Treatment

To soothe the symptoms, try an oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl®) or hydrocortisone cream (Cortaid® or Cortizone®). You can also use cool compresses and calamine lotion. Contact your doctor if the itching and redness do not improve within a few days or if it gets worse. If your doctor feels it is necessary, there is also an anti-parasitic medication available called praziquantel.

Prevention

To avoid infection, don't swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem and shower with clean water immediately after swimming in lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean. If a shower is not available, towel drying immediately after leaving the water may also help prevent swimmer’s itch. Avoid bodies of water that are home to a high concentration of birds, since waterfowl such as ducks, geese, gulls and swans can all carry the parasites.

 

Sources: Cercarial dermatitis." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov, last accessed 7/2001.American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book: Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. American Academy of Pediatrics, 1997. Drug Facts and Comparisons. Facts & Comparisons, 2006. Habif, Thomas. Clinical Dermatology. Mosby-Year Book Inc., 1996. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Hoeffler, D.F. “Swimmer's itch (Cercarial Dermatitis)," Cutis 4 (1977). Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. Churchill Livingstone, Inc., 1996. Medline Plus. Medline, 2006.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.This answer prepared 7/2/2001.This information updated 1/25/2007.

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