Greenwich, CT: Today, the Greenwich Department of Health announced that they have been informed of episodes involving Swimmer’s Itch at several Greenwich Beaches.
Swimmer’s Itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites that are released from snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds and oceans). Although humans are not the parasite’s preferred host, they can come into contact with a swimmer and cause an allergic reaction and rash.
Swimmers itch is found throughout the world and surfaces mainly during the summer months. Swimmer’s itch is not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to another. Although not all persons who came in contact with the parasite develop Swimmer’s Itch, prolonged contact with waters known to have prompted Swimmer’s Itch, increase a person’s risk. As a result, children are more susceptible, since they wade in recreational waters for long periods of time and do not towel dry themselves after coming out of the water. The following symptoms of Swimmer’s Itch may include:
• Tingling, burning or itching of the skin within minutes or days
• Appearance of small reddish pimples on the skin within about 12 hours
• Small blisters may occur at the site of the small pimples within a short period of time
The urge to scratch will present itself; however, scratching can lead to infection. Itching will subside in a short period of time, but relief measures should be considered.
Most cases of Swimmer’s Itch do not require medical attention; however, if a rash develops, the following may provide relief:
• Use of corticosteroid cream
• Application of cool compresses to the affected area
• Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda
• Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths
• Application of a baking soda paste to the rash
• Use of anti-itch lotion
If scratching the rash develops an infection, contact your health care provider immediately.
The following measures should be taken to reduce the risk of Swimmer’s Itch:
• Towel dry and shower immediately after leaving the bathing water. This includes thoroughly rinsing areas beneath the bathing suit.
• Decide on whether to swim in the water noting that signs have been posted about Swimmer’s Itch being reported from the recreation swimming area and being posted at same beach locations as a precautionary measure.
Many factors must be present for Swimmer’s Itch to become a problem in swimming water. Since these factors change and cannot be tested for, it is not known how long the water will be affected. As a precaution, the Department of Health has requested that all Greenwich beaches be posted notifying residents of the possible risk of Swimmer’s Itch. If the problem intensifies, the Department of Health will consider closing a beach location to swimming.