Swimmers Itch 

 A couple of cases of Swimmers Itch have been reported at Delta, and one has been confirmed. 
What is Swimmers Itch?

Acoording to the Mayo Clinc, 

Swimmer’s itch is an itchy rash that can occur after you go swimming or wading outdoors. Also known as cercarial dermatitis, swimmer’s itch is most common in freshwater lakes and ponds, but it occasionally occurs in salt water.Swimmer’s itch is an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites that burrow into your skin. The parasites associated with swimmer’s itch normally live in waterfowl and some animals that live near the water. Humans aren’t suitable hosts, so the parasites soon die while still in your skin.

Although uncomfortable, swimmer’s itch is usually short-lived. The rash typically clears up on its own within a few days. In the meantime, you can control itching with over-the-counter or prescription medications.


 Humans are unsuitable hosts for the swimmers’ itch larvae, which die soon after entering the skin. Our body reacts to the intrusion in the following manner:

  • Tingling sensations: shortly after emerging from the water, bathers will notice a tingling sensation on exposed parts of the body.
  • Red spots: red spots will develop where the organism has penetrated hair follicles.
  • Itching: hours later, the tingling sensation will disappear, and the red spots will enlarge and become itchy like an insect bite. The degree of discomfort varies with the sensitivity of the individual, the severity of the infestation and prior exposure. The condition may persist for a few days.




According to BC Health, these steps can help:

  • Applying waterproof sunscreen before bathing may help reduce the number of larvae from penetrating your skin.
  • Drying yourself off with a towel as soon as you come out of the water. If possible, have a shower and dry off right away. Showering will not remove any larvae that have already burrowed under your skin.


What do I do if I contract or suspect I have swimmer’s itch? According to BC Health, there are a number of steps you can take, which may reduce some of the itchiness. Common treatments and advice include:

  • Avoid scratching, if you scratch too much the rash may become infected.
  • Apply plain calamine lotion.
  • Take antihistamines. For children under 6 years old, consult your health care provider such as your local pharmacist or family doctor. Antihistamines may make young children sleepy or may stimulate the nervous system causing hyperactivity.
  • Take shallow, lukewarm baths with 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the water.
  • Take colloidal oatmeal baths.
  • Apply cool compresses.

Is the Rash Dangerous?

According to BC Health, the allergic reaction to swimmers’ itch can be unpleasant, but the organism does not enter the blood and the rash does not spread from the initial points of contact. Symptoms usually last for four to five days, although they may persist for up to two weeks.

If you experience Swimmers Itch, report to the Swimmer’s Itch Coordinator 1 800 282 8069 ext. 7036. Links to documents providing further explanation and preventive measures below. 

Special Thanks to Judi Linden for bringing this to the our attention and for providing the link to Manitoba Waterstewardship(below) and information on where to report cases.  

Further Reading

http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/reports/water_protection_handbook.pdf page 38-9 of the document

http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/quality/images/swimmers_itch_2012.pdf brochure both have contact numbers for where to report

About scott greenlay

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