Watch Out for Swimmers Itch in Lakes

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - As the temperatures warm up, more people are heading to lakes to cool off. Before you jump in the local lakes, make sure you know how to prevent "swimmer's itch," an uncomfortable rash that can last up to a week. Nancy Sonafrank of the Department of Environmental Conservation says it's not dangerous but you still want to avoid extended exposure.

"It's more irritating but its one of several things you can be exposed to in natural surface waters," said Sonafrank.

That's any body of water that is not treated, so lakes and coastal waters can have contaminants in them which can make you itchy or sick. Swimmers Itch is your body reacting to a parasite and there are ways you can prevent exposure.

"When they come in contact with the water, swimming or wading or catching fish that they rinse off with clean water after they swum and also rinse the fish and cook the fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature," said Sonafrank.

She says these precautions can prevent around 90% of the problems.

"Swimmers itch comes from ducks and snails, so if you see a lot of ducks, there probably is a higher likelihood of swimmers itch," said Sonafrank.

So jump in the shower after swimming and watch out for water where there are a lot of ducks and snails.
The Center for Disease Control recommends rinsing with clean water, or drying off with a towel after swimming and avoiding shallow water if you can. Their website (cdc.gov) has more information on the common summer rash and how to avoid it.