Summer is the best time to try out all those great outdoor activities – trekking, spelunking, camping, beach bumming, and so many more. The warm months of summer leads to many water-related activities as well such as swimming, surfing, waterskiing, rafting, and diving. Unfortunately, some people may experience itchiness and skin rashes after doing these aquatic activities.
Simmer’s itch or cercarial dermatitis, occurs when the body is immersed in water that is contaminated with parasites called schistosomes. Schistosomes are abundant in freshwater like lakes, ponds, and rivers because this is where the parasite’s hosts – aquatic birds and snails – live. When schistosomes penetrate the skin’s epidermis, they trigger the body to cause an allergic reaction.
Cercarial dermatitis causes a bumpy, red rash that is extremely itchy. The rash and the itchiness usually appear after a day of exposure to contaminated water. Swimmer’s itch is very common in the mid-western region of America, but it can also occur in places like Texas where there are warmer climates. The only way to prevent Swimmer’s itch is to avoid getting in contact with contaminated lakes, rivers, etc.
The rash and the itchiness caused by cercarial dermatitis are self-limiting. The symptoms go away within a week, with or without treatments. The schistosomes do not cause parasitic infections. They eventually die after entering the human skin. They only cause an allergic reaction and nothing more. However, there are certain types of schistosomes in other parts of the world that can cause very severe infections.
Rashes and itchiness are best managed with topical corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamine medications. But in certain cases, injectible corticosteroids and antihistamines may be needed for immediate relief. Antibiotics may also be given for prophylaxis. Even though the schistosomes in America do not cause infections, constant scratching may break the skin barriers, making it easier for other microorganisms to enter the body. There are no transmission precautions that need to be observed for swimmer’s itch because it is not contagious and the disease cannot be transferred from person to person.
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