Itching for a swim? Better think again

"It's swimmer's itch season again in Long Lake and other lakes in Kitsap County.Swimming and other aquatic pursuits can get people a dose of the irritating skin condition at Long, Kitsap and Island lakes, according to Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District.As of June 8, when the district issued a health advisory about the problem, Kitsap Lake had the most reported cases (nine). Island had two and Long, the only one of the three lakes in the South Kitsap area, had one case.Formally known as schistosome dermatitis, swimmer's itch is caused by small worms deposited in lakes by migratory fowl, other birds and small mammals. The larvae bore into the skin of humans and die, producing a rash and the itching that gives the problem its nickname.Advisories are issued so that if people elect to go in the water, they'll know there are precautions or actions they should take, said Scott Daniels, a health district official.Other than staying out of the water, the next best things are to put on waterproof sunscreen before going in and showering and or toweling off vigorously after coming out. People who get the itch anyway can control it by applying a phenolized calamine lotion and an antihistamine--such as Benadryl--to the skin. Officials said doctors should be consulted for proper care and treatment.Lakes that have a lot of aquatic weeds and waterfowl are particular incubators of the itch-causing organisms. The health district doesn't test lakes for their presence because of a lack of equipment, officials said. Instead, the district depends on complaints from the public about swimmer's itch in order to report outbreaks.Daniels said the outbreaks aren't necessarily seasonal but are tied to the lifecycles of the larvae. As in past years, officials suggest not feeding waterfowl in an attempt to limit droppings that contain the organisms."

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