Your health care provider will likely diagnose swimmer's itch by looking at your skin and talking with you about your activities and symptoms. The condition can look like poison ivy rash and other skin conditions. There are no specific tests to diagnose swimmer's itch.


Swimmer's itch typically clears up on its own within a week. If the itching is severe, your health care provider may recommend prescription-strength lotions or creams.

Lifestyle and home remedies

These tips might help reduce the itch:

  • Apply a corticosteroid cream or an anti-itch lotion, such as those that contain calamine.
  • Take an oral nonprescription antihistamine (Benadryl) or one with loratadine (Alavert, Claritin, others). The latter type causes less sleepiness than does Benadryl.
  • Avoiding scratching the rash.
  • Cover affected areas with a clean, damp washcloth.
  • Soak in a bath sprinkled with Epsom salts, baking soda or an oatmeal-based bath product (Aveeno, others).
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water, and then apply it to the affected skin.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary health care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist).

What you can do

Before your appointment, you might want to write a list of answers to the following questions:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have you been swimming or wading outdoors recently?
  • Did anyone else who went swimming with you develop a rash?
  • What medications and supplements do you take regularly?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?
May 10, 2023
  1. Parasites: Cercarial dermatitis (also known as swimmer's itch). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/swimmersitch/faqs.html. Accessed Sept. 21, 2022.
  2. Thompson DA. Rash or redness, widespread. In: Adult Telephone Protocols: Office Version. 5th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2021.
  3. Kermott CA, et al., eds. Swimmer's itch. In: Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies. 2nd ed. Time; 2017.
  4. Dinulos JGH. Infestations and bites. In: Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 21, 2022.
  5. Auerbach PS, et al., eds. Aquatic skin disorders. In: Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 21, 2022.
  6. Sominidi Damodaran S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Nov. 16, 2022.


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