While swimmer’s itch is more prevalent in the southern states, there are still bodies of freshwater nearby that regularly host the tiny parasites that cause swimmer’s itch.
(EEP!) Don’t be alarmed.
While swimmer’s itch can be irritating, it’s rarely serious and never contagious. Humans are not suitable hosts, so the parasites quickly die.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are four easy ways to reduce your chances of contracting swimmer’s itch, as Baby and Thor will demonstrate.
1. Don’t feed the water fowl! Keep them away from your shoreline. Water fowl such as ducks, geese and gulls are part of the cycle that allows swimmer’s itch to proliferate. Learn more about swimmer’s itch parasite’s life cycle from the Centers for Disease Control.
2. Apply a water repellent substance onto your skin. Waterproof sunscreen, petroleum jelly, or skin oil, such as coconut oil, can create a temporary barrier on your skin, making it harder for the parasites to penetrate your skin. Reapply every 60 to 90 minutes.
3. Swim in deeper water away from the shoreline. Swimmer’s itch mainly resides near the shoreline where the water is warmer, and where birds and snails are likely to be frequenting.
4. Towel off ASAP! The parasites reside in the droplets of water on your body when you return to shore. As the water evaporates the parasites look for a place to go, which happens to be your skin. By toweling off immediately, you are wiping away the parasites before they have a chance to burrow into your skin.
Thor swims in the lake, but not to worry, Mom and Dad will towel him off right out of the water to prevent swimmer’s itch.
Parasites love puppies, too. Don’t forget to towel off you furry buddy after fun in the water! Dogs can also contract swimmer’s itch.
If you’ve contracted swimmer’s itch, there are some home treatments to make yourself more comfortable. The Mayo Clinic recommends using over-the-counter antihistamines and anti-itch creams. A bath in Epsom salt may also soothe the skin. If the itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe you something stronger. Thankfully, swimmer’s itch only lasts a few days, so the irritation will be short lived as it clears on its own.
Disclaimer: No animals were harmed during this photo shoot. The puppies wore life vests as a precaution, and received lots of praise and kibble.
Lonna Whiting is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.