Swimmer's rash quickly appears and less quickly disappears
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: We have cottage on a lovely lake, and we spend the entire summer there. It takes my husband close to two hours to commute to his work, but he doesn't mind.
This summer, two of my children all of a sudden broke out in a terribly itchy red rash. It appeared soon after they got out of the water. It suddenly went away, but it came back again. I used alcohol on the rash. My kids said it did lessen the itch. I was trying to decide if I should take them to the doctor, but the rash completely left in two days, and they never felt sick. What was this? Is it the same thing that people get from sitting in hot tubs? -- R.R.
ANSWER: I should have answered this in the summer. More people could have used the information then. But this will prepare you for next year.
Your kids had swimmer's itch. It's caused by a parasite carried by water fowl and snails. Both release eggs into the water, and the eggs hatch into tiny, colorless critters, 1 millimeter (0.04 inches) in length. They burrow into the skin. An itchy, red rash develops soon after the swimmer gets out of the water. It fades quickly but reappears in 10 to 13 hours. It disappears in a few days. It's not a health threat. It is annoying. It's not spread to others.
No treatment is necessary other than treatment for suppressing the itch. Rubbing alcohol was a good choice on your part. Antihistamines and cortisone creams also can control the itch.
The highest population of the parasite is in water where vegetation grows, and in shallow water where the water temperature is higher than in deeper water.
Next year, have your kids shower immediately after swimming and vigorously dry themselves with a towel.
Take a survey. See if your neighbors face the same problem. If they do and if they want to eliminate it, they can hire experts to feed water fowl with medicated cornfeed that does away with the parasite they carry. The same people can lower the snail population.
Swimmer's itch isn't the same as hot tub folliculitis, another itchy skin rash that's often transmitted in hot tub water, swimming pools and water slides. Its cause is the bacterium pseudomonas. Time heals this problem, too.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: In your answer to the 83-year-old man whose waist went from 29 inches to 35 inches even though he exercises, I'd like to add something. I, too, am 83. I weigh 143 pounds, the same as I did in high school. My waist has gone from 28 to 34 inches. I am a rigorous exerciser. I bet that man has lost three or four inches in height. I have lost three inches. The shrunken body widens the waist. If we could lose 20 or 30 years, our waists would thin. -- M.E.
ANSWER: You're right. Older people lose from one to three inches of height. The back disks thin. That's one reason why we shrink. Women shrink more than men. They're more likely to have osteoporosis, and osteoporotic backbones crumble. That's a compression fracture. Sometimes it's painful. All the time, it shortens a person.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have read with interest your replies regarding various forms of exercise, but none in regard to boxing -- i.e., hitting a heavy bag.
I am 70, 5 feet 11 inches, weigh 180 pounds and in good health. I have been hitting the bag for several years, with my doctor's approval. I work out on the bag three or four times a week. I set a timer for 15-minute "rounds" and go for two to three rounds per session, with one or two minutes between round.
What are the benefits of this activity, and how many calories does it burn? -- L.H.
ANSWER: Constant upper-body exercise burns more calories than does an equal amount of lower-body exercise. Hitting a heavy bag is grueling work. One estimate for a 180-pounder hitting the bag for an hour is 500 calories. Three 15-minute rounds would be 375 calories.
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