Swimmer's Itch

SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
edited March 2014 in General Discussion
Every summer I spend two weeks in Minnesota with my wife's family. It is an ideal training setting. The lakes are cold, clear and beautiful. However, I get "swimmer's itch." Small red bumps (like chicken pox) that itch like crazy. I spend a LOT of time in the water, so after two weeks, you could run out of ink playing connect the dots on my body. They get everywhere: in nose/mouth, eyelids, other nook & crannies. Its not quite bad enough to discourage me from swimming, but it does itch like hell and I look terrible for a couple of weeks. I've tried "Swimmer's Itch Guard" (seems to be a mixture of Noxzema and zinc oxide) and Vaseline, but neither seem to stop the problem. Any ideas???

"Lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought be down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."


  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited March 2014
    A worldwide problem. Different causes in different places but in fresh water it's often called "Lake or Duck Itch" as it's caused by a parasite on water fowl. Similar to scabies that kids pick up but I haven't seen that a scabies treatment (insecticide like malathion) be used. Might be worth trying that though.

    CDC actually recommends.

    Use corticosteroid cream
    Apply cool compresses to the affected areas
    Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda
    Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths
    Apply baking soda paste to the rash (made by stirring water into baking soda until it reaches a paste-like consistency)
    Use an anti-itch lotion


  • GordsGords Syracuse, UTCharter Member
    edited March 2014
    I've only had swimmers itch once before. It was awful. @bobswims had a really bad case of it. I just read this article which claims that DEET applied 1-4 hours prior to swimming, provides some protection depending on the concentration of DEET. Check out page 3 of this document:

    [url="http://www.ajtmh.org/content/61/5/743.long "]http://www.ajtmh.org/content/61/5/743.long [/url]

    I have no idea how effective this really is in humans, but it's worth a try if your only swimming option involves an invested lake, and you plan to swim anyway. Then again, it'll wash off and you might get some of that DEET in your mouth. I'd be wary of that too.
  • Duck itch is the worst! I now refuse to swim in a particular lake here because every time I have swum in it, I have gotten duck itch. Apparently, toweling off vigorously after you get out of the water and then showering immediately can cut down on it.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    There's a lake around here that gives swimmers itch. I found that showering immediately and washing with antibacterial soap really helped.
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