Summer Pest Making Season's First Appearance at Iowa Great Lakes
Posted: 06/16/2011

ARNOLDS PARK – Swimmer’s itch is starting to make its presence known to swimmers at Iowa’s Great Lakes.

The good news is that parasitic little pest that can cause welts and itching, only lasts a few weeks and is not life-threatening.

The condition is caused by flatworms, a parasite. The flatworm eggs are transferred to water by bird droppings. The eggs hatch and are consumed by 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, and quickly dies after that, causing an allergic reaction below the skin resulting in welts and itching.

Officials say the symptoms are not life threatening and generally disappear within a few days. An antihistamine along with calamine lotion can be used to treat the affected areas.

Swimmer’s itch is most prevalent along beaches pounded by waves.

Officials say the most preventive measure is to reduce the amount of time in the water and to quickly dry off when getting out of the lake.

DNR officials say they’ve received nearly a dozen complaints of swimmer’s itch in the past week or so from people who have been swimming in the Iowa Great Lakes.