Imagine your horror, after spending a lazy summer day at the beach, playing in the shallow water with your family, and you end up looking like this:
This is what Swimmer’s itch looks like.
I had never even heard of swimmer’s itch until a few years ago.
While planning a camping trip to S. Higgins Lake State Park, I read in the park reviews that people were reporting that they were infected with swimmer’s itch after being in the lake.
Swimmer’s itch is cercarial dermatitis. It is caused by an allergic reaction to group of flatworm parasites that burrow into the skin.
The parasites are introduced into the water by water fowl, and animals that live near the water such as muskrats and raccoons.
The eggs of the parasites are passed into the water through the feces of the birds or animals. When the eggs hatch in the water, the larvae infect aquatic snails. The snails then release microscopic cercaria. The cercaria swim to the surface of the water. If humans are swimming in the water, the cercaria will burrow into the skin of the humans.
Fortunately, humans are not suitable hosts for the cercaria, and the parasite soon dies, but not before causing an allergic reaction. An infected person may notice symptoms which include:
- itchy skin
- a burning sensation
- red pimples
The discomfort caused by the allergic reaction is short lived. It is usually gone within a week. The symptoms can be eased by using:
- bathing in baking soda or Epsom salts
- applying oatmeal paste
- anti-itch lotion
As hard as it is, scratching the rash is strongly discouraged. Scratching may cause the skin to brake, and become infected.
Swimmer’s itch can be avoided in the following ways:
- Do not swim or wade in brackish water or marshy areas.
- Do not swim in areas where swimmer’s itch is a known problem.
- Don’t feed water fowl. This encourages them to come into swimming areas. (I am adamant about not feeding wild animals. See my post: Close Encounters Of The Wild Kind)
- Always shower after swimming or dry vigorously with a towel.
After learning what I could do to help my family avoid swimmer’s itch, I made the decision to go ahead with our plans to camp at S. Higgins Lake State Park.
We had a very nice weekend. The kids enjoyed swimming in beautiful Higgins Lake. I made sure that they showered right after swimming, and we didn’t experience any outbreaks of swimmer’s itch.
By reading the reviews of the campground, I learned of a potential problem. I was able to do research, and make an educated decision whether or not to camp, and swim at this park.
When looking for a campsite, I encourage everyone to read the reviews left by previous campers. When we leave responsible reviews of the campgrounds that we visit, we are aiding future campers to choose the right campground for their family’s next adventure.
“Thought is the wind, knowledge the sail, and mankind the vessel.”