itchy...scratchy...itchy...scratchy... it's swimmers' itch
For some of you, this article is just a little to late ... the itching and scratching has begun ...
for others, ... READ CAREFULLY ... and you may avoid this pesty, itchy, scratchy summertime pest!
The Wis. DNR encourages Wisconsinites ... "to regard swimmers' itch in the same manner as
mosquitoes, wood ticks and deer flies ... there really is nothing that can be done to eliminate them, and
our best action is to learn how to reduce exposure ... they shouldn't discourage us from enjoying the
many outdoor activities we can experience when we venture into their outdoor habitat".
For those who are new to our lakes and unfamiliar with lake itch, don't worry .. it's just a nasty
summertime pest you kinda get used to after a while. Until then it may be comforting to know that not
everyone is susceptible to the "bug" and preventive measures can be taken to avoid it. Also rest easy that
there are no permanent effects from swimmers' itch.
Swimmers' itch is a widespread occurrence in Wisconsin, Minnesota, many other states, Europe and
elsewhere. Some of the finest recreational waters in the state, including Lake Superior, experience
swimmers' itch annually. An outbreak may be severe, but last for only a few days, or can be minor and
last much of the season.
"the itch" ... is caused by a tiny flatworm parasite that emerges from a snail and penetrates the skin. The
microscopic-sized pest cannot enter human blood vessels and dies shortly after penetration. In some
cases an allergic reaction develops ... thus the itching. (Studies show that 30-40% of individuals
contacting the parasites are sensitive and experience irritation.) If you're one of the unlucky ones, red,
itchy bite like welts usually appear within several hours of leaving the water.
Here's how to fight back ...
- 'the itch" is most likely to "get you" during the mid-day hours from noon to 2:00 p.m.
- don't swim on your shore following a strong and persistent on-shore wind. Swim offshore if
- apply baby oil liberally before entering the water.
- large numbers of this parasite can accumulate along the shore in shallow water - stay in deep
water - avoid going in and out of shallow water.
- after swimming rub your body vigorously with a rough towel BEFORE the water dries on your skin.
- take a shower and scrub well with soap and water.
- feeding ducks should be discouraged ( a host to the parasite) ... new occurrences seem to be
strongly associated with people feeding and attracting ducks!
- small children playing in shallow water are most susceptible because of the alternate wetting and
drying with the arms, legs and waist area most prone to infection.
- rip-rapped shorelines provide habitat for snails - one of the parasite's hosts during its life cycle.
- apply maximum strength 2% Benadryl cream to welts.
- take chewable or capsule antihistamine such as Benadryl. In severe cases consult your
physician for treatment with prescription antihistamines and topical steroid creams.
- there is no effective way for people to eliminate "the itch" on your beach. Attempts are ineffective
because of the ability of the "bug" to drift long distances.
If you have dealt with swimmers itch in the past and have discovered an effective way of treating the
itching ... or preventive measures to avoid the itching ... PLEASE let me know so I can pass this
information on to our readers. email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org