How to reduce the odds of getting swimmer's itch

The weather is heating up, which means a lot of folks are heading to the lakes to keep cool. But before you jump in, be aware that doctors are seeing a rise in swimmer's itch.

Mia Ferguson has a total of 13 spots from swimmers itch, just on one of her arms. After swimming with family at the big marine in St. Croix, her mom brought her to the doctor.

"She's just a little itchy," her mom said. "But that's ok. We're blessed. We are going to be fine. Take a little Zyrtec and cortisone cream."

She's not alone. In White Bear Lake, the city administrator said this is the earliest he can remember having to put up signs at Memorial Beach. His theory is that the warm shallow water where lake levels have improved are creating a breeding ground.

As soon as the DNR approves a permit for treatment, the problem will go away temporarily.

"It's like mosquito bites but they always itch," Sydney Staedt said.

Staedt and three of her friends woke up covered with spots a week ago.

"We were going to grab jet skis to go for a ride and we toweled off and could not stop itching," she said. "So, we tried to shower it off but it didn't help. So we all went home and woke up with them the next morning."

Dr. Lenny Snellman, who treated four patients on Wednesday, said swimmer's itch comes every spring .

"I think it's just because all of a sudden we had a 90 degree day to go swimming," Snellman said.

He explained that the rash is caused by birds that eat snails and eventually poop out parasites that get under swimmers' skin. Some people are allergic, and some are not.

"You can't be allergic to something the first time you are exposed," Snellman said. "So the more times you are exposed, the worse you get it."

How to reduce the odds of getting swimmer's itch

From the Minnesota DNR:

-Keep waterfowl away from your dock and shoreline. If you are feeding waterfowl (ducks and geese) from your dock, stop. If ducks like to rest on your dock, do what you can to discourage them. You can try putting an owl wind sock or statue on your dock and move it around occasionally so the ducks don't become accustomed to it.

-Stay out of the water by the shore. The swimmer's itch organism may originate somewhere else in the lake and is being brought to your shoreline by wave action or currents. You may want to try swimming from a raft or boat farther out from shore where you are less likely to come into contact with the cercaria. Of course, this strategy may not be practical if you don't swim or have young children who want to play in the water near shore.

-Apply a water repellant substance such as petroleum jelly, waterproof sunscreen or other skin oils to reduce the ability of the Cercariae from penetrating the skin.

-Dry off with a towel as soon as you get out of the water. When you get out of the lake, don't let the water evaporate off your skin. The organism in the droplets of water on your skin will look for somewhere to go as the droplet of water evaporates.


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