Swim students getting some tips to avoid swimmer's itch

How to Get Rid of Swimmer’s Itch

Swimmer’s itch is no fun. It’s ugly and uncomfortable and well, itchy.

The good news is that swimmer’s itch most often clears up on its own within a few days. The treatment you want to give yourself during these few days to a week is all about making sure you don’t scratch that swimmer’s itch!

Scratching the swimmer’s itch rash is a sure way to prolong it and perhaps even aggravate it into something more serious. Excessively scratching a swimmer’s itch rash increases the risk of it becoming infected.

Treatments to keep you or your child from scratching up any swimmer’s itch rash

These topical treatments focus on cooling the heat from the rash that triggers that itchy feeling. 

  • Apply a lotion to the affected area. Depending on the severity of the itching, lotions that may offer relief include calamine lotion, or an antihistaminic or mild corticosteroid cream. All these options are available over-the-counter. 
  • Take an oral antihistamine. Be sure to check with your doctor before using an oral antihistamine, or using an antihistaminic or mild corticosteroid cream, so you are sure to use the right amount. 
  • A cool compress may be enough to sooth the urge to itch. Just make sure the washcloths are clean and dry, before soaking in cool, clean water. 
  • Another option is to combine some baking soda and water into a paste. Press the paste into the affected areas rather than rubbing it on. Once it dries, go to the cool compress option to gently wash it off. Again, don’t rub. If you press the cool, wet washcloth on the dried paste it will transfer to the washcloth to wash off.
  • Take a lukewarm bath!! Once the water starts to cool, it’s time to get out. There are a couple mix-in options:
      • A few tablespoons of baking soda into a shallow bath.
      • Sprinkle some Epsom salts, but you don’t need to saturate the bath water. While Epsom salts are generally positive on the body, they can cause diarrhea or upset stomach. If you’re concerned about the amount to use for yourself or your child, talk to your doctor or ask your pharmacist.
      • Colloidal oatmeal is a common treatment for eczema, another skin condition marked by a rash. You can buy the colloidal oatmeal or make your own.

If the itching is truly unbearable, a doctor may be able to prescribe a stronger medication or lotion. Since scratching will make the rash worse, don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you or your child just can’t stop scratching. 

If the swimmer’s itch doesn’t clear up in a week

In some cases, the swimmer’s itch won’t run its course on its own. You’re doing all the right things and not scratching, but it’s not going away. In that case, go see a doctor as it may be infected and require prescription medication to cure.

Don’t confuse swimmer’s itch with chlorine rash

Swimmer’s itch is not the same as chlorine rash. Swimmer’s itch is caused by parasites that live in water birds and other creatures around water, such as snails. The parasites are most commonly found in fresh water, but they can be present in salt water too. When the parasites burrow into the skin, the itchy rash occurs.

In contrast, chlorine rash occurs due to extended exposure, overexposure, or high sensitivity to chlorine used in pools. Most people will just experience some skin dryness due to chlorine. If the swim school owner overuses chlorine or a swimmer has a natural sensitivity even to acceptable levels of chlorine, a rash is possible.

In any case, the worst thing you can do to any sort of swimmer’s rash is to scratch it. If you find yourself or your child with a swimmer’s itch, take those few days it needs to heal itself and stay out of the water. Use what the suggestions above for relief from the urge to scratch it.

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