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What You Need to Know About Swimmer's Itch

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of swimmer's itch may include:
  • Tingling, burning, or itching of the skin
  • Small reddish pimples
  • Small blisters.
People may experience tingling, burning, or itching of the skin within minutes or days after swimming in the contaminated water. Small reddish pimples usually appear within 12 hours of contamination, and these pimples may develop into small blisters. When people scratch the affected areas, a secondary bacterial infection may occur. Itching may last up to a week or more, but will gradually go away. It is important to note that swimmer's itch is not the only rash that can occur after swimming in fresh or salt water.

Treating Swimmer's Itch

Most cases of swimmer's itch do not require medical attention. Helpful tips for relief from itching include:
  • Use a corticosteroid cream
  • Apply cool compresses to the affected areas
  • Bathe in baking soda
  • Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths
  • Apply a baking soda paste to the rash
  • Use an anti-itch lotion
  • Try not to scratch.
Scratching may cause the rash to become infected. If itching is severe, your healthcare provider may suggest prescription-strength lotions or creams to lessen your symptoms.

Is It Contagious?

Swimmer's itch is not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to another.

Risk Factors

Anyone who swims or wades in infested water may be at risk for swimmer's itch. Larvae are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water.
Once an outbreak of swimmer's itch has occurred in water, the water is not always unsafe. Many factors must be present for swimmer's itch to become a problem. However, there is no way to know how long water may be unsafe. Larvae generally survive for 24 hours once they are released from the snail. However, an infected snail will continue to produce cercariae throughout the remainder of its life.
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