Swimmer's itch

Elk Island National Park

What is Swimmer's itch?

"Swimmers itch" or "water rash" is the name given to a temporary skin irritation acquired by swimmers.

Swimmer's Itch Symptoms

Tingling Sensations: Shortly after emerging from the water, swimmers will notice a tingling sensation on exposed parts of the body.

Red Spots:

Swimmers will next notice small red spots where the organism has penetrated the skin.


Hours later, the tingling sensation will disappear, and the red spots will enlarge and become itchy. The degree of discomfort varies with the sensitivity of the individual, the severity of the infestation and prior exposure.

Preventative Measures:

Waterproof sunscreen or baby oil provides a greasy barrier over the skin that prevents the itch parasite from entering the pores. Showering and toweling off immediately after swimming also reduce the chances of the itch.

  • Avoid beaches where swimmer’s itch is prevalent
  • Dry off with a towel
  • Shower in warm water
  • Avoid areas with aquatic plants
  • Use a fragrant suntan oil

What can you do if a rash appears?

There are two main ways of treating swimmer’s itch, either through a topical medicine or taking antihistamines, which can be purchased at many local shops. To make a baking soda paste, mix a small amount of baking soda and water to form a light paste and then apply to afflicted areas. If the itch is really bad, try a warm bath with baking soda.

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