Skip to main content

Home Remedies for Swimmer’s Itch

Summers are perfect weather to swim, but swimming in freshwater ponds and lakes can cause a parasitical infection commonly known as Swimmer’s itch. Medically known as cercarial dermatitis, it can even occur in salt-water bodies as well.

What is swimmer’s itch?
As the name suggests, swimmers itch occurs as an allergic reaction to certain parasites that enter human body during swimming in fresh water lakes and ponds. It manifests itself as itchy, red-coloured blisters that look like pimples. Scratching them can cause bacterial infection and may take longer to heal.

It is a common occurrence across the world, with most cases being reported during the months of summer.


Home Remedies for Swimmers Itch
It usually does not require medical attention, and the symptoms gradually go away after a week or two. However, the following home remedies and preventive measures can help you deal with the condition –

1. After swimming, make sure you take a shower
After taking a waddle in a lake or ocean, make sure you take a rinse immediately and dry yourself with a clean towel. Wash your swim suits often.

2. Use a good sunscreen
Using sunscreen creates a barrier for the parasites to enter the skin. It has been reported that using a sunscreen can protect one from the problem.

3. Avoid swimming in marshy, warm water areas
The parasites that cause swimmers itch are known to thrive in warm waters on the shores. Also, avoid the places where there are snails since they release the larvae in the water. If you have to swim, move to the deeper waters.


4. Do not attract birds
Refrain from offering foods to birds and animals where you or others intend to waddle or swim.

5. Read the safety signs
If there is a sign that states that water is unsafe for swimming, pay heed to it. Sometimes, water can be unsafe for one season, or more, depending on how the lifecycle of the parasite in the snails and the birds continues.

6. Soak in Epsom salt bath
To get relief from itching and other symptoms of swimmers itch, soak in a warm water bath with Epsom salt. The blisters will itch less and you will be relieved from scratching.

7. Soak in an oatmeal bath
Oatmeal is known to have a soothing effect on sores and rashes given its anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and anti-itching activity. Soak in an oatmeal bath to get relief from swimmer’s itch.

8. Use cold compresses
You may want to use cold compresses to soothe burning, itchy sensation and get some relief.

9. Baking soda for swimmers itch
Make a paste with baking soda and water and apply it on the rashes. Baking soda has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and it can help provide you relief from itchy skin and rashes. However, always use filtered water to make the paste and do not use this pack more than twice or thrice a week.

What are the signs and symptoms of swimmers itch?
After you have had a swim in contaminated water, you may notice the below symptoms between minutes to 12 hours.


Itchy or tingling
Red rashes
Small pimples
Small blisters that itch

The more you swim in contaminated waters, the more severe your chances of developing the condition. Swimmers itch occurs on the parts of body that are exposed to water and not covered by swimsuit of waddles. With continuous exposure, the symptoms may worsen.

It can be uncomfortable, but swimmers itch rarely gets serious.

What causes swimmers itch?
Swimming or wading in fresh water lakes or ponds can make certain parasites enter your body. The parasites are actually released in water by infected snails and thrive on certain birds and mammals. In the event that they enter human body before they can find their specific host, an allergic reaction happens. This is so because these parasites cannot multiply in the human body and soon die.

The parasites generally live in the waterfowl and some birds and mammals such as geese, ducks, swans, beavers, muskrats, racoons and beavers.

The parasites produce eggs that are released in the water through the faeces of these infected hosts. The eggs hatch and the larvae swim freely to search for specific type of snails where they can thrive, multiply and develop further. Again, the new larvae look for birds and mammals to thrive, but if they come in contact with exposed human skin, they enter the body.

Since humans are not suitable as hosts for these parasites, they soon die. But till that time, the parasite causes an infection that manifests itself as a swimmers itch.

How long do symptoms of swimmers itch last?
You may experience a tingling or burning sensation on your exposed body parts within minutes of swimming. Sometimes, it may take a few days. The symptoms usually go away within 2 weeks. However, you may need to get treatment if you scratch the blisters vigorously and that may prolong the healing.

Diagnosis of Swimmers Itch
The diagnosis of swimmers itch can be a little difficult owing to the similarity of symptoms with poison ivy. Moreover, the rashes can be mistaken for other allergic reactions as well. Since there are no specific tests that diagnose swimmer’s itch basis any sample, it can be a challenge to exactly pinpoint the infection. However, if you notice burning, itchy rashes after swimming in a lake, pond or an ocean, it is best to consult your doctor.

What is the treatment of Swimmers Itch?
Since the parasite cannot survive in the human body and dies, the symptoms of swimmers itch usually clear up within 1 to 2 weeks. If you experience severe itching or burning, antihistamine, anti-itching creams may be recommended to use. Prescription medicines may be prescribed for severe cases or if scratching has triggered a bacterial infection.

Is swimmer’s itch contagious?
There has been no study to prove that swimmers itch can transfer from one person to another. Since the parasite is unable to thrive in the human body, it dies without any multiplication.

After swimming in un-chlorinated, safe pools, it is always good to be alert if you develop any kind of rashes. If the rashes persist or you do not see improvement after 3-4 days, consult your doctor as it could be indicative of some serious issue. Swimmer’s itch is not the only rash one can get after swimming in lakes and ocean bodies.