If you've ever had swimmers itch you don't want to get it again, trust us, we've had it! Lake swimming is great fun but not if the water is infected and causes this uncomfortable rash which lasts for days and is often unbearably itchy, especially for children.
Swimming in our local lakes is a regular summertime event in most families.
But getting swimmers itch shouldn't have to be part of the experience. What is it and what to do if you do get it.
What is it?
It is the temporary but irritating skin itch caused by invisible parasites
found in some ponds and lakes.
It will often start with a tingling feeling, leading to a red rash and ending with sometimes unbearable itching that can last for days.
What causes it?
The life cycle starts with the parasite living inside the blood of birds. The eggs of the parasites pass through the birds and the larvae look for snails to live in until they mature and are passed into the water looking for a bird to inhabit. Sometimes though they find a human instead of a bird.
When the parasite enters a person it doesn't actually make it into our blood stream but rather our antibodies destroy the parasite and that is what causes the itching sensation.
Since the larvae stages of the parasite are mostly concentrated along the surface of lakes and ponds that is also where the highest likelihood for humans to come into contact with them. And the most likely season for the parasite to be in bloom is June through September, prime swimming months.
How to prevent it.
The best way to avoid coming into contact with these parasites is to avoid any areas that are known to contain them.
Also, avoid areas that have thick aquatic vegetation and areas where you might see a lot of snails or where snails may be likely to live.
Shower as soon as possible after swimming or bathing and towel down as soon as you get out of the water.
What to do if you come in contact with the parasite and treatment for swimmers itch.
The good thing to know is that it isn't dangerous, it doesn't enter the human blood stream and it doesn't spread. It is not contagious either. But if you do end up with it, you will begin to feel a mild tingling feeling shortly after being in the water. The affected skin will start to appear red, or covered with red spots which will soon become very itchy. The itching can last from a few days to a week or two.
The important thing to try and remember is not to itch it as best you can. Relief from swimmers itch can be found by trying an anti-itch cream such as Calamine lotion and spread it over the affected area. You can also take an antihistamine for the itching.
Swimmers itch is a nuisance and is not always avoidable but do look for any signs and reduce your chances of getting it by avoiding parasite infected areas.
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