Any tips on getting rid of swimmer’s itch? And how do you prevent it?
Since cercarial dermatitis—swimmer’s itch—behaves like an allergic reaction, you can’t get rid of it, but you can treat the symptoms until the reaction subsides. Those red papules are your body’s defence after the larvae of parasitic schistosome trematodes burrow into your skin. Don’t worry, the parasites only successfully use waterfowl and marine mammals as hosts and aren’t dangerous.
Our bodies see them as foreigners and hit them with antibodies, which is a healthy sign. Good job, immune system! Except now you itch like crazy. The rash starts out as a prickling sensation minutes after you leave the water, then small, itchy, red bumps like mosquito bites appear, usually within 12 to 24 hours. Peak itchiness sets in about two or three days after exposure and can last a week. Treat it with oatmeal baths, cool compresses, anti-itch medication, antihistamines or, if you’re desperate, a prescription cream. The reaction will go away on its own, but if you scratch too much, you could cause a secondary infection.
In the future, towel off vigorously post-swim, since the larvae don’t try to burrow under your skin until you’re out of the water.