Itchy Skin After Swimming
You may have heard of swimmer's ear -- that pain you get from trapped moisture in the ear canal -- but less common are swimmer's itch and sea bather's eruption, two different conditions that cause itchy skin after a swim. In most cases, both conditions are mild and easily treated, but more serious complications can occur.
If your skin itches in areas your bathing suit or swim trunks did not cover, you may have swimmer's itch. Usually found in fresh water, parasites from birds and snails can burrow into your skin, causing an allergic reaction, leaving you with itchy skin and in some cases, a red, raised rash that can appear up to two days later. The parasites die shortly after entering your skin, according to MayoClinic.com.
As with most allergic reactions, you can treat swimmer's itch with an over-the-counter antihistamine and anti-itch cream. To soothe the itch, bathe in Epsom salts, a baking soda bath or colloidal oatmeal bath. Apply a paste of baking soda and water onto the affected areas. If the itch does not clear up within a week or if pus develops from the rash, contact your doctor.
One of the best ways to prevent swimmer's itch is to avoid the places the parasites are most likely to live. Parasites flourish in warm waters, which are more resistant to chlorine treatments. Check the chlorine levels of pools and hot tubs with test strips. If you swim in a public pool, ask that they test the water twice a day. Staying in deeper waters may also help prevent swimmer's itch. After your swim, rinse and dry your body thoroughly, and wash your swimsuit often. Since birds may carry parasites, avoid feeding them at the beach.
Sea Bather's Eruption
If after swimming in the ocean, you itch in the areas your swimwear covered, you may have sea bather's eruption, a reaction to stings from the larval forms of certain sea anemones. These sea anemones are so small you cannot see them in the water with the naked eye. The stinging cells embed in your clothing, and can sting you weeks after your swim, when a chemical reaction from laundering causes the stinger to erupt. In addition to the itch, you may experience a red rash, and feel under the weather or fatigued.
You can't prevent sea bather's eruption, but you can treat it at home. After showering and drying the skin, you can treat the rash with the same antihistamines and anti-itch creams to treat swimmer's itch. You can also try a mixture of water and vinegar or water and rubbing alcohol to soothe skin. If you experience additional symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, weakness, vomiting, itchy eyes or a burning sensation when you urinate, contact your doctor.
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