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Swimmer’s Itch

It is always fun to flock to the lakes and the beach to get a cool refreshing dip.  But the risk of getting swimmer’s itch is high.  It starts with a skin rash that is so itchy, you wish you never went swimming at all.   It could start anywhere in the body: the neck, the legs, or the arms.   There is no way to determine if you have swimmer’s itch or a kind of skin disease.   There no clinical tests to determine that you have indeed swimmer’s itch.

Cures prescribed by doctors are antihistamine or corticosteroid creams.  This can be purchased over the counter.  Avoid scratching to prevent further infections.  A dermatologist must be consulted if the itch continues to three to four days.

Sometimes swimmer’s itch occurs after exposure to sea water.  It is often a delayed reaction to the sting of the jellyfish that has dried up in your swimsuit.  Other culprits lurking in the sea are the sea anemones and the Portuguese Man-of-War.  So better watch out for them.  

A word of caution though for intrepid swimmers – make sure your bathing suits or swimming apparel - are cleaned thoroughly after the swim.  The jellyfish sting dries up and sticks to the clothing.  When the swimsuit is used again, the itch can start without warning.  Unsuspecting victims will never associate the itch to a previous swimming exercise.  

In coastal areas, people call this skin rash “Duckworms”. The itch varies in severity.  In some people it may last within hours or torment the patient for 7 days.  If the rash is all over the body it is really a severe case.  Science has associated this itch with the trematode parasite dropped by infected birds or aquatic mammals.   Migrating infected birds give the disease to local fowls inhabiting waterways.   

It is also wise to watch out for chemical waste or sewage.  Sometimes algae can also give this nasty swimmer’s itch.    The resulting itch from these sources does not differ from the irritation caused by larvae or nematodes.  The scratching becomes even worse if the rash is not treated accordingly.   

Once, there was a victim of a jellyfish attack.  The ugly gash on her forearm was fiery red, and she was screaming in pain.  Fortunately for her, her companions were able to get some lemons.  The juice of the lemon was applied over the angry rash as she yelled at the top of her lungs.  It took a while before the pain subsided.  From then on, the girl just simply swore off swimming on the beach.    

Summer time is the busiest time for infected snails and birds.  This is the time they multiply or lay eggs.  To prevent the proliferation swimmer’s itch, resort owners and local governments are advised to have vegetation along the pond cleared or kept to a minimum.