Swimmer's Itch Prevention
Swimmer's itch is the common term for cercarial dermatitis, a parasitic infection of the skin that produces an uncomfortable but short-lived rash. It is most commonly contracted in freshwater lakes and ponds and brackish ocean bays, particularly those that are home to waterfowl or snails. Parasites that normally dwell on these animals can be released into the water, where they find their way onto the skin of swimmers. The best prevention is to avoid risky areas and to carefully rinse after swimming.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Avoid swimming or wading in high-risk areas, notably those where swimmer's itch is known to be common, or wherever warning signs are posted. Also avoid marshy water that is likely to be home of snails, or water with a large population of bird life.
Swim in deep water. When swimming in natural freshwater bodies, don't linger by the shore, where swimmer's itch parasites are more likely to be found. Swim out to the deeper water if you are a strong swimmer.
Rinse after swimming. Shower or sponge your body immediately and thoroughly after getting out of the water and dry completely with a clean towel. This can help prevent parasites from burrowing into the skin and causing the symptoms of the condition. Clean your swimsuit between swims, or alternate between suits.
Maintain proper care for you pool, including adequate chlorination and regular cleaning. Though rare, you can get swimmer's itch from your pool, particularly if it is an open-air pool where birds can come in contact with the water.
Don't feed or swim with birds. Feeding birds in the vicinity of your swimming site can encourage them to linger in the water long enough to transfer some of their parasites to the water.
Tips & Warnings
If you do contract swimmer's itch, topical nonprescription creams can help relieve the symptoms almost immediately, but won't kill the parasites themselves. The parasites that cause the infection will die naturally in a few days and the condition will cease.
Article Written By Joseph Nicholson
Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.
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