If you plan on going swimming in a local lake, there’s an important warning you need to hear.
It involves something called “Swimmer’s Itch”and it can be a real problem.
The parasite requires two other things to multiply and invade: snails and certain birds, like Merganzer or Mallard ducks, and Canada geese.
Michigan is a hub for much of the research into the lifecycle of the parasite that causes swimmers itch.
It was first discovered back in 1928 in a Michigan lake.
Here’s what happens: the parasites infect the birds, who then pass parasite eggs in their feces. those eggs hatch and invade snails where they multiply into the form that can burrow into a person’s skin.
Humans aren’t the target — birds are — but that doesn’t stop them from trying, and it’s the attempt to literally “get under your skin” that causes the problem.
When the larvae die they create an intense allergic response that leads to the red bumps and itching.
It isn’t contagious, and they aren’t harmful as long as the bumps don’t become infected — but — the itching will leave you miserable for days.
The treatment for the itching and redness are antihistamines and steroid creams.
There are a few things you can do to prevent the problem.
- Using waterproof sunscreen is thought to help by creating a barrier over your skin to the parasite.
- Ask if swimmers itch has been an issue where you plan to swim – if it is don’t get in
- After swimming in water with lots of ducks or geese, or that’s marshy, or has lots of snails – shower immediately and towel off completely
- Avoid feeding ducks and geese
- If you do get swimmer’s itch, be sure to report to the local lake authorities.
Stay safe out there!