Swimmer’s ear, swimmer’s shoulder–it seems like there are at least a few issues that avid swimmers need to watch out for to stay healthy and in good swimming shape. Have you ever heard of swimmer’s itch before? This itchy rash is caused by parasitic larvae, known as cercariae, burrowing into the skin and causing an allergic reaction. It can be found in both fresh and saltwater. All you have to do is expose your skin to infected water and you can get a case of swimmer’s itch. So what do you do once you have it?
Because the larvae can’t survive in the human body, swimmer’s itch usually goes away on its own in about a week. Remember, swimmer’s itch is an allergic reaction. As such, there isn’t really anything you can do to get rid of the rash itself. The only thing you can do is to be patient and trust your body to heal itself. That said, you can take steps to alleviate the itching you may experience.
Apply Topical Treatments
Topical treatments can give you some relief from the irritating rash. A corticosteroid cream or anti-itch lotion may help. You may find a cool compress over the affected area soothing as well. Some find relief in a colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salt bath. You could also try making a paste from baking soda and water and applying it. The key is to manage the itching so you don’t scratch it too much–that increases your risk of developing an infection.
See a Doctor
You don’t typically need to see a doctor for swimmer’s itch. That said, if the itching is unbearable, your doctor may prescribe a stronger anti-itch cream. It’s important to remember that swimmer’s itch isn’t the only thing you can get from swimming in freshwater or saltwater. If your rash lasts longer than two weeks or if you develop pus-leaking blisters, make an appointment to see a doctor.
Swimmer’s itch is unpleasant, but there is some good news. It isn’t contagious and you can’t get it from a properly treated, well-maintained pool. There are also things you can do to reduce your risk of getting swimmer’s itch. Rinse with clean water after swimming, don’t feed any nearby birds or animals, and be picky about where you swim. Avoid marshy areas, shallow water, and the shoreline as much as possible. While they aren’t completely foolproof, these steps can help you reduce your risk of getting swimmer’s itch.
Identifying safe swimming places is an important skill. Click here for SwimJim’s tips on how to tell if a lake is safe to swim in.