Learn more about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of this itchy rash that usually affects people swimming in freshwater lakes.
Swimmer's itch is a rash that can occur after you go swimming or wading outdoors. It's most common after being in freshwater lakes and ponds, but you can get it in saltwater too.
Swimmer's itch is usually caused by a reaction to tiny parasites in the water that burrow into your skin while you're swimming or wading in warm, calm water. These parasites can't survive in people, so they soon die.
Swimmer's itch usually clears on its own within a few days. In the meantime, you can control itching with medicine.
Swimmer's itch is an allergic reaction to tiny parasites that burrow into your skin while you're swimming or wading outdoors.
Swimmer's itch symptoms include an itchy rash that looks like pimples or blisters. Symptoms may begin within minutes or as long as two days after swimming or wading in contaminated water.
Usually the rash affects skin that's not covered by swimsuits, wetsuits or waders. Your sensitivity to swimmer's itch can increase each time you're exposed to the parasites that cause it.
Talk to your health care provider if you have a rash after swimming that lasts more than a week. If you notice pus at the rash site, check with your health care provider. You might be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist).
Swimmer's itch is caused by an allergic reaction to parasites that burrow into your skin from warm water. These parasites are found in some animals that live near ponds and lakes, including geese, ducks and muskrats.
The parasites' eggs get into the water through the animals' waste. When the young parasites hatch, they live and grow in a type of snail that lives in shallow water. The snails then release the parasites into the water, where they can infect humans.
Swimmer's itch isn't contagious from person to person.
Factors that can increase the risk of swimmer's itch include:
Swimmer's itch usually isn't serious, but your skin can become infected if you scratch the rash.
Follow these tips to avoid swimmer's itch:
Your health care provider will likely diagnose swimmer's itch by looking at your skin and talking with you about your activities and symptoms. The condition can look like poison ivy rash and other skin conditions. There are no specific tests to diagnose swimmer's itch.
Swimmer's itch typically clears up on its own within a week. If the itching is severe, your health care provider may recommend prescription-strength lotions or creams.
These tips might help reduce the itch:
You're likely to start by seeing your primary health care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist).
Before your appointment, you might want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as: