The Green Lake County Health Department has received reports of possible swimmer’s itch cases involving Norwegian Bay.
A press release sent Wednesday afternoon noted swimmer’s itch is typically reported during the summer months, and is not dangerous but can be uncomfortable.
Swimmer’s itch — or cercarial dermatitis — is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites released into the water by snails. The parasites also can use ducks and geese as hosts.
If the parasite comes into contact with a human, it can burrow into skin causing an allergic reaction and rash.
According to the health department, symptoms of swimmer’s itch include: tingling, burning, or itching of the skin; small, reddish pimples; and small blisters.
The department is reminding residents and visitors to “exercise caution when enjoying the water this summer.”
To reduce the chances of getting swimmer’s itch, the health department recommends drying off with a towel or showering immediately after swimming, swimming away from shore, avoiding areas where snails have accumulated and to avoid feeding birds.
Most cases don’t require medical attention, and those with swimmer’s itch are advised to not scratch affected areas because scratching can cause the rash to become infected.
If a rash appears, the department recommends using corticosteroid cream; cool compresses applied to the affected areas; bathing in Epsom salts or baking soda; or using anti-itch lotion.
If itching is severe, health-care providers may suggest prescription-strength lotions or creams to lessen symptoms.
The health department has partnered with the Green Lake Association (GLA) to monitor suspected cases of swimmer’s itch.
“They asked us if we could share a form to help track cases, like we did when this happened last year, and keep the public informed,” said Jennifer Fjelsted, GLA communication and project manager. “The GLA is happy to be working with the Health Department on this issue.”
Suspected cases can be reported to the GLA by clicking here.
Fjelsted noted there's nothing that can be done to treat the water once swimmer’s itch is reported, as it generally stays in the water for 4 to 6 weeks.
In the meantime, she encourages folks to stay informed and take precautions to reduce the risk.
“Avoiding areas that are known to have swimmer's itch in the water, or where there are posted signs, is the best practice to avoid getting the associated rash,” Fjelsted said. “Not swimming in shallow, stagnant, warm water is helpful as these are areas that the parasites that cause the rash tend to be in higher concentrations.”