The information below regarding Swimmers’ Itch is directly from the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks website http://www.muni.org/Departments/parks/Pages/default.aspx.
What is Swimmers’ Itch?
Swimmers’ itch is a skin rash caused by a parasite (called a Schistosome) that is often found in Alaska’s lakes and ponds in the summer months.
Swimmers’ itch is a dermatitis that develops on parts of the body that have been exposed to lake water. Reddened spots, called papules, form on the body within hours after exposure and will itch intensely for several days before subsiding. After approximately 1 week, the symptoms usually disappear. In several cases, a person can develop a fever, become nauseated
and spend several sleepless nights. Anyone who swims or wades in infested water may be at risk. The parasites are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often infected due to their habits of swimming or wading in shallow water. Also children often do not towel dry themselves when leaving the water. Swimmers’ itch is not spread from person to person.
What causes Swimmers’ Itch?
A person gets swimmer itch when larval parasites (flatworms) burrow into the skin of a sensitive persons swimming or wading in the water. Since the parasites cannot live inside the human body, they soon die causing a intense allergic reaction. Human penetration by the parasite is accidental, as flatworms ordinarily penetrates ducks, geese and seagulls. Although you are not able to see the parasite, the existence of birds in or around the water may indicate the existence of the parasite.
Who gets Swimmers’ Itch?
Anyone who swims or wades in infested water may be at risk. The parasites are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children
are most often infected due to their habits of swimming or wading in shallow water. Also children often do not towel dry themselves when leaving the water. Swimmers’ itch is not spread from person to person.
What are signs and symptoms of Swimmers’ Itch?
Within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water, you may experience tingling, burning, or itching of the skin. Small reddish pimples
appear within 12 hours. Pimples may develop into small blisters. Itching may last up to a week or more, but will gradually go away. Because swimmer’s itch is caused by an allergic reaction to infection, the more often you swim or wade in contaminated water, the more likely you
are to develop more serious symptoms. The greater the number of exposures to contaminated water, the more intense and immediate symptoms of swimmers’ itch will be. Be aware, however, that there are other causes of rash that may occur after swimming in fresh or salt water.
If Swimmers’ Itch occurs in a lake, is the lake polluted?
No, according to the Anchorage Health and Human Service
Department, the opposite is probably true. Swimmers’
itch is not a health hazard. It is more of a nuisance. Natural
lake conditions promote the diversity of species, including
snails and birds that are potential hosts for the causative
agents of swimmers’ itch.
What can you do to reduce the chance of getting Swimmers’ Itch?
· Towel off immediately after swimming or wading in infested
water may help to prevent rash development.
· Swim in water away from the shore.
· Avoid swimming in areas where snails and birds have
· Don’t feed the birds.
· Enjoy the beach, but wade into you local swimming pool for hours
of fun and frolic. For swimming pool schedules and information call the
pool fun line at 343-4402