Swimmer’s itch

Swimmer’s itch is an itchy rash that starts after you’ve been swimming outdoors. The rash occurs most often after swimming in ponds or lakes. Tiny parasites in the water burrow into the skin. The parasites can’t live in humans but cause an itchy rash that lasts for several days.

Swimmer’s itch rash will only be present on skin areas not covered by swimsuits or clothing. The rash may appear red with blisters or pimples. Swimmer’s rash is not contagious and can’t be spread from person to person. 

While swimmer’s itch rarely causes complications, skin can become infected from scratching. To avoid swimmer’s itch, try the following:

  • Avoid swimming in areas where others have developed swimmer’s itch
  • Avoid wading near the shoreline
  • Rinse exposed skin after you get out of the water
  • Wash towels and swimsuits frequently
  • Don’t feed birds and ducks near swimming areas. They carry the parasites that cause swimmer’s itch
  • Use waterproof sunscreen

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It can be hard to diagnose because swimmer’s itch looks a lot like other rashes such as poison ivy. If you are concerned about an itchy rash, our healthcare providers will evaluate your skin and make treatment recommendations. 

Controlling the itching is the primary goal of treating swimmer’s itch. Topical creams and antihistamines are commonly used to treat symptoms. If over-the-counter treatments are not helping, your healthcare provider can prescribe further treatment.