Health Report: Preventing Swimmers Itch

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Warmer temperatures often means enjoying a dip in the nearest lake. But in some areas a pesky parasite can take the joy out of a loved summer experience.
Before jumping in the local lakes, it will make the experience better knowing how to prevent "swimmer's itch,” an uncomfortable rash that can last up to a week.

Nancy Sonafrank of the Division of Environmental Conservation says it's not dangerous but avoiding extended exposure is key.

"It's more irritating but it’s 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 a swimmer itchy or sick.
Swimmers Itch is your body reacting to a parasite, but there are ways to 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," Sonafrank said.

She says these precautions can prevent around 90% of the problems, because the parasite comes from ducks and snails. A significant amount of ducks, will mean a higher likelihood of swimmers itch.

Jumping in the shower after a summer swim is recommended, especially if the foul fowl are in the area.