Swimmer's itch is a skin rash your child may get after swimming in some freshwater lakes and ponds, and sometimes in salt water. A swimming pool is usually safe as long as it is clean and has chlorine. It is also called cercarial dermatitis.
It is caused by a parasite carried by snails, ducks, geese, and other animals living near the water. When your child swims in the water, the parasite gets into your child’s skin. The parasite can’t be passed from person to person. The parasites soon die while still in your skin.
The first symptom is itching that starts 1 to 2 hours after your child gets out of the water. The itching is usually mild at first. The itching may go away, then return after several hours. The itching is usually more intense when it comes back.
A pinpoint red rash may develop, but your child can have itching without a rash.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tell the provider where your child has been swimming or wading.
To help relieve the itching:
Check with local officials to find out if the parasite is a problem in the area where you want to swim. Rinse exposed skin with fresh water immediately after leaving the water. Make sure that your child dries off well using a towel with a rubbing motion as soon as he gets out of the water. This may help prevent the parasite from getting into your child’s skin. Wash your child’s swimsuits often.