Swimmer’s itch is an allergic condition that cannot be cured. However, the symptoms can be treated with remedies until the alleviation of the allergic reaction. They appear as red papules, but the larvae that cause the swimmer’s itch is not dangerous when it finds its host in a human body. When the larvae burrow into our skin, our bodies immediately hit them with antibodies, seeing them as foreigners. The only downside is that it starts with a weird pricking sensation and turns into a full-blown rash that itches like crazy. You might also notice the appearance of red bumps, similar to those you witness in mosquito bites within a period of 12-24 hours. The itchiness is at its peak after 2-3 days of exposure and can go on for up to a week.
What Is A Swimmer’s Itch?
Swimmer’s itch is basically a kind of an allergic reaction that causes an itchy, but temporary rash on the body by small parasites called schistosomes. They look like worms and survive in the bodies and bloodstreams of aquatic animals, water snails, waterfowl, and ducks. During their cycle, these larvae are known to leave their host and go looking for other mammal and bird hosts.
Ways in Which You Can Get A Swimmer’s Itch
The schistosomes larvae might get on to your skin while you swim or wade in the water mistakenly. They, then, go under your skin although they are bound to die quickly because they cannot survive in the human body. The swimmer’s itch is caused due to these small larvae finding their way under the human skin. Note that swimmer’s itch is not infectious and cannot be spread from direct contact with the afflicted person.
Where Can You Find Schistosomes Larvae?
Schistosomes larvae can usually be found in ponds, lakes and the British Columbia waters in summers. One can usually find them floating near the edges and surfaces of ponds, lakes and other water bodies. Swimmer’s itch is certainly not a common occurrence, and it is mostly reported on the coastal beaches of British Columbia.
Who Is More Likely to Get A Swimmer’s Itch?
Young children are the most likely to be at a higher risk of getting afflicted with swimmer’s itch because they usually splash and wade in shallow areas of ponds and lakes and get wet thoroughly without drying off properly. Also, they intend to play by the shore or in the shallow areas, and this is where you commonly find these parasites. Also, the skin of children is substantially more sensitive than that of adults. Hence, it is more prone to getting a rash.
How to Avoid A Swimmer’s Itch?
As mentioned previously, there is no sure shot way of curing a swimmer’s itch. Also, you cannot completely avoid it if you are too fond of the water. That said, there are several precautions that you can take to avoid it. They are:
- Properly assess the condition of the water on any beach, pond or lake by talking to the concerned authorities of the area or by visiting the local health officials.
- Do not forget to cover yourself with a high SPF waterproof sunscreen before jumping into the water because this might help you in significantly reducing the number of larvae from going under your skin.
- Lookout for warning signs at picnic areas, lakes and beaches that mention the presence of swimmer’s itch in the water bodies. However, not all these places might have signage. If you are not sure about the water, we recommend that you avoid the areas where there is a lot of weed growth because it might have more larvae or snails around those plants.
- Using a dock or a pier might significantly reduce the risk of exposure as there will naturally be more larvae present near the shore. One thing that you must absolutely avoid doing is diving into unknown waters.
- Lastly, draw yourself off the moment you are out of the water. It will be even better if you shower right away before drying off. Take into account that any larvae that have already found their way under your skin will not be removed by showering.
How to Treat A Swimmer’s Itch?
While you might not succeed in curing this allergic condition immediately, you can take a few steps to lessen the symptoms and get some much-needed comfort from the itch. Common swimmer’s itch treatments include:
- Apply a cool compress.
- Apply a plain, unscented calamine lotion.
- Do not scratch or you will infect the rash.
- Consider taking colloidal oatmeal baths.
- Take antihistamines. However, consult a doctor before doing so as it might induce hyperactivity amongst children.
- Take lukewarm and shallow baths with baking soda in the water.
- You can also take some anti-itch medication, or if you are very desperate, you can even go for a prescription cream. But again, consult a doctor before you do so.
The reaction is very likely to subside on its own. However, if you give in to the temptation of scratching the rash too much, you would only be causing yourself an even greater annoyance in the form of a secondary infection.
Can Swimmer’s Itch Be Considered Dangerous?
You can certainly call this allergic reaction an irritation (literally), but it is no danger to anyone, child or adult. Having said that, try not to irritate the wound a lot because the secondary infection can definitely put you in a world of trouble.
The best way to avoid a swimmer’s itch is to stay away from any unsafe water body and not feed geese or ducks that might be hosts to the schistosomes larvae. Topical, anti-itch medications are usually available in all drug stores that can help you reduce the effects of the rash. Moreover, one thing that you should absolutely avoid doing is air drying your body after a swim because till the time the water evaporates; the larvae have already entered your system. So, brisk rubbing your body with a coarse towel is the best way to destroy them!