Swimmer's Itch can be a real pain for those enjoying the lakes of Michigan.

Swimming in any body of water around the world can expose people to parasites, Michigan lakes included. These parasites can cause several different problems or health concerns including swimmer's itch.

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What is swimmer's itch?

Swimmer's itch is a skin condition acquired by coming into contact with certain flatworm larvae. These parasites then burrow into human skin and cause irritating patches on the skin, which look very similar to mosquito bites.

The good news is that it is non-fatal and only 30-40% of the population is sensitive to it. Swimmer's itch is not contagious either.

Where does swimmer's itch come from?

The short answer...bird poop. The parasite's eggs live inside of waterfowl and then are passed into the water. They then seek out snails to mature. Once matured they seek out birds once again, but sometimes try to attach to humans by mistake. That is the short version from a dumb, non-biologist like me. For a more scientific explanation, click here. 

So...stop feeding the birds on the dock!

How can you prevent swimmer's itch?

According to the Washtenaw County Health Department, there are a few things you can do to try and prevent swimmer's itch if you are getting in one of Michigan's lakes. They are:

  • Apply waterproof sunscreen or baby oil. This may keep the parasites from entering your skin.
  • Thoroughly and briskly dry off with a towel or shower as so as you get out of the water.
  • Put on dry clothes and change out of that wet bathing suit.

I don't know what it is about this year, but I've had more friends end up with swimmer's itch this year than most other years combined. Wear sunscreen, clean yourself off after a swim in the lake, good luck, and Godspeed my friends.

Source: Washtenaw County Health Department

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