Public Health warns of swimmer’s itch in Plumas waters

Plumas County Public health announced today, June 29, that swimmer’s itch has been detected in local waters including Lake Almanor and the Graeagle Mill Pond, as well as other local lakes.

Swimmer’s itch is caused by an allergic reaction to parasites found in some birds and mammals, which can spread to humans when they wade or swim in lakes and streams. The parasites are released into fresh and salt water from infected snails. Rather than finding a host bird or animal, the parasite burrows into a nearby swimmer’s skin causing an allergic reaction and rash. Young children swimming or playing in shallow water are particularly at risk.

Symptoms include an itching or tingling sensation of the skin that may begin minutes after swimming. An eruption similar to an insect bite might appear. In sensitive individuals, small blisters may appear. Symptoms usually lessen after a week.

Over-the-counter treatments, including anti-itching ointment and corticosteroid cream; cool compresses to the affected areas; and oatmeal baths may provide relief from the itching. Individuals are advised not to scratch because this could cause the rash to become infected. Call a doctor if symptoms persist.

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To reduce the likelihood of developing swimmer’s itch:

  • Avoid swimming in areas with heavy aquatic weeds or snails, areas frequented by large numbers of ducks or geese, and avoid still pools of non-chlorinated water during the mid-summer months.
  • Swim in deeper water away from the shore if you’re a good swimmer.
  • Towel off immediately after a swim.
  • Shower as soon as possible.
  • Don’t encourage birds to stay near swimming areas by feeding them.

For more information on swimmer’s itch, please contact Plumas County Public Health at 530-283-6330 or 800-801-6330.