CRYSTAL LAKE – Complaints about swimmer’s itch are starting to come in from Crystal Lake and Black Hawk Lake, and it is likely only a matter of time before it shows up at Storm Lake, the Iowa Great Lakes and beaches at other natural lakes.
The condition is caused by parasitic flatworms. The flatworm eggs are transferred to water by bird droppings. The eggs hatch and infect snails, from which the free swimming form of the flatworm larvae emerges. In the absence of a suitable host, such as a bird, the parasite will attempt to penetrate the skin of humans, after which it quickly dies, causing an allergic reaction below the skin resulting in welts and itching.
There are few simple steps swimmers can take to help prevent swimmers itch.
First, if possible, avoid swimming in areas containing aquatic plants because marshy areas often contain snails, which are the parasite’s intermediate host. Swimmers can also reduce the amount of time in the water, avoid beaches that are being pounded by waves and dry off quickly when getting out of the lake.
The welts and itching caused by the parasitic little pest can last for several days to about a week and usually don't require a visit to the doctor. An antihistamine along with calamine lotion can be used to treat the affected areas.
For more information on swimmer’s itch visit the following websites: