Swimmer’s itch is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites at their larval stage. These parasites are released byinfected snails in both fresh water and salt water, but more common in the former. The parasite’s favored hosts are typically birds or specific mammals, however, when the parasite comes in direct contact with a swimmer, it burrows in the epidermal layer of the skin, thus resulting to skin rash and allergic reaction. However, because humans are not suitable hosts, the parasites will soon die while still in the skin.Swimmer’s itch can occur anywhere in the world, but it is more common during the summer months. It cannot be passed from person to person. Swimmer’s itch is also called cercarial dermatitis.
Swimmer’s Itch Causes
The adult form of the parasites involved dwellin the blood of animals. The commonly infected animals include ducks, geese, gulls, swans and certain mammals such as, muskrats and raccoons. When the parasites produce eggs, these eggs are passed on in the form of the host’s urine and feces. The following will then occur:
- Eggs land in the water and will eventually hatch, releasing the free-swimming microscopic larvae.
- Larvae will swim in water in search of aquatic snail.
- Once the snail is infected, it will multiply and develop.
- Infected snails will release another type of microscopic larvae into the water, which will then look for a suitable host, which can sometimes be humans.
- Once larva enters the skin, it will survive in the skin for some time but will eventually die.
Swimmer’s Itch Symptoms
Symptoms of swimmer’s itch may begin within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water. They usually occur only on he exposed areas of the body.Symptoms are generally mild but prolonged and repeated exposure to contaminated water may result to more serious symptoms. Typical symptoms include:
- Tingling, burning, or itching of the skin
- Small red pimple-looking rashes, which progress tosmall blisters(within twelve hours)
- May increase in size
Swimmer’s Itch First Aid Management
Swimmer’s itch would usually cause discomfort to its host, however, it
is generally short-lived. There is usually no need for medical attention. But certain methods can be done to relieve the host from the discomfort he/ she may be feeling. To relieve of symptoms, the following are recommended:
- Anti-histamines may be taken since it is an allergic reaction.
- To reduce inflammation, corticosteroid creams may be applied topically. Cool compresses may also be applied on the affected areas.
- Take a bath in Epson salts or baking soda or immerse in colloidal oatmeal baths.
- Baking soda paste may also be applied to the rashes.
- An anti-itch lotion may also be applied topically.
- Avoid scratching despite the somewhat intense itchiness to avoid infections.