Warm weather is here and more people are swimming in area waters. The Washburn County Health Department remind the public that swimmer’s itch is commonly found in shallow waters in Northern Wisconsin.
Swimmer’s itch is a skin rash caused by a parasite which ordinarily infects birds and snails. As part of their life cycle, the parasites are released from the infected snails, migrate through water, and search for ducks or geese to be their host. When humans are present, the parasite will penetrate the skin and die.
The parasites do not mature, reproduce, or cause any permanent infection, but they may cause an allergic reaction in some people, resulting in a bumpy red rash that causes intense itching for a few days.
Fortunately, swimmer’s itch is not dangerous – but it is an annoyance that can put a damper on a summer vacation, the Washburn County Health Department said. To reduce the chance of swimmer’s itch:
> Avoid swimming in areas where snails have accumulated.
> Rinse skin off immediately after swimming or wading in infested water using a hose or shower.
> Briskly towel off immediately after swimming or wading in infested water. Do not let the water evaporate from the skin.
> Swim in water away from the shore.
> Do not feed birds in swimming areas.
More information on swimmer’s itch can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ website at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p4/p42094.pdf.
For questions: Washburn County Health Department, 715.635.4400.