When you swim or wad outside you can get an itchy rash called cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch. Freshwater ponds and lakes are the common sites for swimmer's itch or cercarial dermatitis, but is often witnessed in salt waters.

A microscopic parasite barrowing in the human skin gives rise to cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch. The niche of the parasite giving rise to cercarial dermatitis is in animals living near the water or in a waterfowl. The parasite dies after entering the skin since human is not their suitable hosts.
Cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch is usually experienced for a short time despite being uncomfortable. OTCs (Over-The-Counters) or prescriptions can control the itching as the rash clears away in a few days' time.

Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

Causes of Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

The perfect niche for the parasite causing cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch is living in the blood of waterfowl and also in animals living near lakes and ponds. Examples are:

  • Geese
  • Gulls
  • Ducks
  • Muskrats
  • Beavers.

The feces of the host are the carrier of the parasite's eggs. A type of snail must harbor the hatched parasite before it infects people, animals or birds. The explanation of the fact that infection normally occurs in shallow water is the fact that this snails lives in shorelines.

You need not worry about catching cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch from an infected person because it is not contagious.

Symptoms of Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

The signs and symptoms of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch are not immediately noticeable. A burning, itching or tingling of the skin can be experienced within minutes a few days of swimming on the contaminated water. Pimples that are small and reddish will erupt within 12 hours. Small blisters can result because of these pimples. Despite the fact that the itching will go away, it may last up to one week.

More serious complication of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch is likely to occur with continuous wading or swimming in the contaminated water. If you swim regularly in contaminated water then the symptoms of swimmers itch will be more immediate and intense.

It is worth noting the fact that other rashes that are different can occur when you swim in salt and fresh water.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

Do I Have to See a Doctor for Medication for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch?

No. medication is not necessary in most cases.You may relief a rash through the following:

  • Corticosteroid cream
  • Bathing with baking soda
  • Cool compressing
  • Calamine lotion
  • Anti-itch lotion
  • Colloidal oatmeal bath, like Aveeno & others.

Do not scratch. Infection may result if you scratch the rash. You symptoms can be lessened through a prescription from your health care professional.

How Does the Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch Parasite Infest in Water?

Aquatic mammals like beavers and muskrats harbors adult parasite in their blood. Also animals like swans, gulls, geese and ducks provides the parasite with proper living environment. The infected mammals and birds pass the eggs of the parasites via the feces.

Contamination of water occurs if the egg lands in water. Free swimming larvae are hatched from the eggs which swim while searching for a particular species of snails found in water.

Further development will be achieved if the eggs find the particular type of snail. A different larva is released to the water by the infected snail (cacarae hence renowned as carcaral dermatitis). This resulting larval stage looks for a host which is suitable (muskrat, bird) so that the life cycle restarts again. The skin of the swimmers can be burrowed by this larvae despite the fact that human are not suitable hosts. The barrowing results in a rash/ allergic reaction. They larvae soon die because they cannot develop in humans.

Can a Person-to-Person Transmission Occur with Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch?

No. A person to person transmission is not possible with cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch.

Who Can be Infected with Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch?

Anyone wading or swimming in water that is infested is risking. The shoreline is the place that is probably suit for larvae to swim. Adults are less vulnerable than children because they do not swim in shallow waters like children. Children do not dry themselves with a towel when they exit the water.

What is the Safety Condition after Water has been Infested with Parasite?

Different factors may contribute to the presence of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch and the problems it is associated with. The duration of the unsafely of the water cannot be easily told. Once the snail releases the larvae it will be active for 24 hours only. Throughout the lifetime of an infected snail, the production of cercacia will continue. For a continuing lifecycle, there must be presence of migratory mammals or birds for future infection of other snails.

Risk Factors for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

The risk of swimmers is elevated with the duration of time you spend in infested water. Children who hardly dry up with a towel after exiting and the tendency of spending a lot of time in shallow water increases the risk of infection.

The sensitivity of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch differs on individuals. With constant exposure to cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch causing parasite the sensitivity increases.

Complications with Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

It will only be if you scratch you skin vigorously it will be infected, but cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch has no major complication. Scratching the rash must be avoided.

Tests to Diagnose Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

It is challenging to diagnose cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch because of the rash resembling other problems of the skin, for example poison ivy. Specific test of diagnosing cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch are not there.

Your general practitioner or your family doctor is the first person that you should see. A dermatologist (skin specialist) can give you be you next alternative.

Steps You Can take before Meeting the Doctor for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

A list of answers may be necessary prior to your appointment and they are:

  • The first time you start experiencing symptoms was when?
  • Have you swam or waded in the recent past?
  • Was the rash developed with your swimming partner?
  • The type of supplements and medication you are currently using.

Your Expectation from the Doctor

The doctor may as a few questions:

  • Do your symptoms appear occasionally or continuous.
  • Your symptoms are improved by what? If anything.
  • Your symptoms are worsened by what? If any.

Treatment for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

It will only take a few days for cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch to clear up by itself. A week is the duration within which some cases of infection lasts. Anti-itch creams like calamine lotions and over the counter antihistamines can control itching in the meantime. A prescription medication can be recommended by your doctor if the itching proves severe.

Prevention of Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

Reducing cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch risks include:

  • Carefully choosing swimming spots. Possible signs of contamination or cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch prone areas should be avoided. Marshy areas that are commonly harboring snails shall not be used for swimming or wading.
  • Shorelines shall be avoided at all cost. Shallow waters pose a threat of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch. Thus, you can go to deep waters in order to avoid infection, if you are strong swimmer.
  • Rinsing after a swim. After leaving the water you ensure that rinse the exposed skin with water that is fresh after which you use a towel to dry up vigorously.
  • Skipping bread crumbs. Feeding of birds near areas used for swimming should be avoided.

Is My Swimming Pool Safe to Swim?

Yes it is safe. Chlorinating and well-maintenance of the pool will ensure that there is no risk of cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provided permission for giving a portion of the information above.

Lifestyle Changes for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

Do not scratch no matter what. It might be helpful to take the following steps apart from medication and cream to help soothe swimmer's itch:

  • Covering the affected spot with a washcloth that is wet.
  • Sprinkle baking soda, oatmeal or Epsom salts after soaking in bath.
  • Apply the affected area with baking soda and water paste.

Home Remedies for Cercarial Dermatitis or Swimmer's Itch

Below mentioned are few home remedies for cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch:

  • You can reduce the itch and pain by using Benadryl spray. Washing the body with methyl alcohol, salt water, dilute household ammonia or acetic acid (vinegar) will help
  • After every swimming session one should dry using a towel
  • Use cold compresses
  • Bathing with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal
  • Applying the affected area with baking soda paste
  • Coating the affected area with calamine lotion after washing it with isopropyl alcohol.

You must not worry about cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch. Treatment is not necessary for a mild infection. You can consult the doctor only in severe cases. Swimming need not be given up with this. Caution should only be exercised.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 13, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

Symptom Checker

Slideshow:  Home Remedies, Exercises, Diet and Nutrition

Chakra's and Aura's

Yoga Information Center

Find Pain Physician

Subscribe to ePainAssist Newsletters

By clicking Submit, I agree to the ePainAssist Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of ePainAssist subscriptions at any time.

Copyright © 2016 ePainAssist, All rights reserved.

DMCA.com Protection Status