Swimmer’s Itch, also known as cercarial dermatitis is a itchy skin rash caused by allergic reaction to an infestation with some parasites of birds and mammals. Swimmer’s Itch usually occurs during summer months and often arise during swimming on ponds, lake and oceans. Larvae from infected snails are released into fresh and salt water where they mistakenly penetrate our skin during swimming causing itchy skin rash.

Usually you may not have any allergic reaction during your first exposure to larvae infested water. But with repeated exposure you may likely to get itchy skin rash. So the more you swim in contaminated water, the more likely chances of getting cercarial dermatitis. After few minutes exposure to contaminated water or after few days you may experience itching, burning or tingling sensation to the skin. It may be further followed by small reddish pimples like bumps ( papules). Sometimes blisters may develops over several hours. If repeated exposure with contaminated water occurs the conditions might be severe, which might need medical attention. But for mild cases if untreated it will subside within few days or week.

Usually for mild cases no treatment is required. It will gradually go away after few days or weeks. If it lasts for more then a week or if the area if infected immediately contact your doctor. If you just have rash and they are itchy, you can do the following for relief:

  • You can apply cool compress to the area that are affected.
  • Apply anti-itch lotions like calamine lotion.
  • Over the counter mild Corticosteroids creams.
  • You can also take oral over the counter antihistamines to control the itching.
  • Apply baking soda paste to the affected area or bath with baking soda.
  • The most important, avoid any scratching on the rash.

Because cercariae are usually present on warm and shallow water, you should avoid swimming on these areas. If you still love swimming on these areas you should immediately towel dry your body or take shower. This might atleast prevent cercariae  from penetrating your skin.

Note: Swimmer’s itch or cercarial dermatitis¬†is not contagious disease and it cannot be spread from one person to another. Swimming on the swimming pool is safe if its well maintained and chlorinated.

Other names: Rice paddy itch, Duck Itch, Duckworms, Duck fleas, clam diggers itch, sawah, kubure, kobanyo, hoi con.