swimmers itch 2019 270The Grey Bruce Health Unit has received reports of individuals suffering from swimmer’s itch.

Swimmer’s itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by a common allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites released from infected snails in fresh water such as lakes and ponds.

The parasite’s preferred host is a bird or mammal but it can burrow into skin if comes into contact with a swimmer, particularly if water is left to evaporate after swimming. Although humans are not suitable hosts and the parasites soon die, they may cause an allergic reaction and rash. The rash is not contagious.

After swimming in contaminated water, you may experience symptoms including:

  • tingling, burning, or itching of the skin

  • Small reddish pimples

  • Small blisters

Because swimmer’s itch is caused by an allergic reaction, the more often you swim or wade in contaminated water, the more likely you are to develop symptoms. To reduce the likelihood of developing swimmer’s itch

  • Do not swim in areas where swimmer’s itch is a known problem.

  • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found.

  • Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water.

Most cases of swimmer’s itch do not require medical attention. Try not to scratch. Scratching may cause the rash to become infected. If you have a rash, you may try the following for relief:

  • Use calamine lotion

  • Apply cool compresses to the affected areas

  • Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda

If symptoms persist, or if you are concerned about your health, it is recommended that you see your healthcare provider.