Louise Queen

Swimmer’s Itch

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2009 at 11:00 am


Recently Cameron and I were having a discussion about swimming in the sea. As you all know Canada borders the Atlantic and it takes a bloody lot of sunshine to warm it’s water up. Conclusion: reserve swimming for the lakes.

Well that was until we stumbled across the above notice. Swimmer’s itch, duck itch or cercarial dermatitis (for all you geeks out there) is is a short-term, immune reaction occurring in the skin of humans that have been infected by water-borne trematode parasites.

The trematodes that cause swimmer’s itch are parasitic schistosomes that use both snails and vertebrates as hosts in their life cycles. Most cases are caused by parasites that use waterfowl as the vertebrate host. These avian schistosomes cannot complete their life cycles in mammals, but can accidentally infect humans, giving rise to mildly itchy spots on the skin. Within hours, these spots become raised papules (a circumscribed, solid elevation of skin with no visible fluid, varying in size from a pinhead to 1 cm) that are more intensely itchy. The papules are caused by localized inflammatory immune reactions, each corresponding to the penetration site of a single parasite, which dies in the skin within hours.

The good news: it’s perfectly harmless so long as you don’t scratch too much and cause any secondary infection. Symptoms usually disappear within a week.

Just the thought of it is making me itch, I’m off out to buy some calamine lotion…


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