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Vilas County fields questions about swimmer’s itch, offers advice to reduce cases


The Vilas County Health Department is urging people to take precautions against swimmer’s itch.

It says it’s gotten several phone calls about it recently.

Swimmer’s itch is a common and painful rash that comes from parasites in the water you’re swimming in.

The parasites are often found in shallow water near the shoreline, which is why children get swimmer’s itch more often that adults. These parasites come from infected snails and are looking for animals, like geese or ducks, to attach to and live on. But if they come across a human, they will burrow their way into the skin and cause a little rash to appear.

The rash can’t be transferred from person to person.

It typically goes away in a couple of days.

Tips to lower your chance of getting swimmer’s itch include:

• Briskly dry off with a towel, especially where the bathing suit touches the skin, as soon as you leave the water.

• Shower right after you come out of the water, if possible.

• Limit your time in shallow water, where the parasite is typically found.

• Do not feed waterfowl in areas where people swim.

If you have swimmer’s itch, you'll see red bumps on your skin that look like pimples or blisters and they will tingle, burn, or itch.

You typically do not have to see a healthcare provider if you have swimmer's itch.

Below are tips to help with relief:

• Use corticosteroid cream.

• Apply cool compresses to the affected areas.

• Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda.

• Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths.

• Apply baking soda paste to the rash (made by stirring water into baking soda until it is paste-like).

• Use an anti-itch lotion.

If the rash does not go away after a week, contact your healthcare provider.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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