Press Release

July 26 , 2012

At Least Two Cases of Swimmer's Itch Diagnosed

SPRINGFIELD – Doctors have diagnosed two cases of swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, in people who swam in Lake Jacksonville last week. Swimmer's itch is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites in the water, which come from infected birds and snails. If a swimmer comes in contact with the parasite, it can burrow into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash.

Signs and symptoms include tingling, burning or itching skin, small reddish pimples or small blisters within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water. Itching may last up to a week or more, but will gradually go away. Affected persons should try not to scratch the area as it can lead to a secondary infection. Most cases of swimmer's itch do not require medical attention. If you have a rash, try the following for relief:

  • Use corticosteroid cream or anti-itch lotion
  • Apply cool compresses or a baking soda paste to the rash
  • Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda
  • Soak in oatmeal baths

Anyone who swims or wades in infested water may be at risk, and the more you swim in the infested water, the more likely you are to develop more serious symptoms. Swimmer's itch is not contagious and cannot be spread person-to-person.

If you have recently been in the water at Lake Jacksonville, or other lakes, and notice a rash, swimmer's itch may be the cause.

To reduce the risk of swimmer's itch

  • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found
  • Avoid swimming for long periods in shallow water
  • Towel dry and shower immediately after leaving the water
  • Do not attract waterfowl (by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming

Additional information to help you decide if you want to get in a lake is available at:

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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