Michigan summers mean time spent on the water, around the water, and in the water. As much joy as our abundant freshwater lakes bring us, they can also be home to nasty little parasites that cause 'swimmer's itch'. If you've never had or seen swimmer's itch, it is an annoying, itchy, scratchy, nearly week-long miserable condition that must run its course before it finally disappears. Don't let this little bugger ruin your fun! Let's look at how to best avoid swimmer's itch in Michigan.

Understanding the Cause of Swimmer's Itch

Essential Health via YouTube
Essential Health via YouTube
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Plain and simple, a little larva that hatches from the shell of a bottom-dwelling snail in warm, shallow waters. The next step in this parasitic larva's life cycle is to burrow into a duck, where it will reach its next stage. Instead, the little bugs confuse a human swimmer for a duck, swan, or goose, burrow into their skin, where they die and cause uncomfortable and itchy bumps. Here are 5 steps you can take to avoid the misery that is Michigan swimmer's itch.

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1. Stay Informed about Lake Conditions

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Canva
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Before you go to the lake, be sure to check for any swim advisories, closures, or reports on swimmer's itch. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provides an interactive map highlighting affected areas.

Essensia Health via YouTube
Essensia Health via YouTube
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2. Dry Off Immediately

Blue Perspectives recommends as soon as you get out of the water, dry off by gently padding your skin with a towel. Swimmer's itch parasites like wet skin because it's easier to penetrate, so drying off quickly helps to keep them out.

Related: Meet 'Cercariae', the Tiny Parasite that Causes Swimmer's Itch

Essensia Health via YouTube
Essensia Health via YouTube
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3. Apply a Protective Coating

You're more than likely doing this anyway, but applying waterproof sunscreen can actually act as a roadblock for the swimmer's itch parasite. All the more reason to make sure to slap on the SPF (just make sure it's waterproof).

4. Don't Feed Ducks, Swans, or Geese Where You Swim

WaterShedCouncil.org
WaterShedCouncil.org
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Swimmer's itch parasites start their life in duck, goose, and swan droppings. Feeding any of these can be fun for kids and adults alike, but every piece of bread or scrap you're feeding these waterfowl increases your chances of getting swimmer's itch.

5. Avoid Shallow Water with Snails

Swimmer's itch parasites live on the back of snails that prefer shallow waters. This presents a problem since humans tend to like shallow, sandy areas as well. Take a quick look around and see if there are any snails in the area. If possible head to a deeper area of the lake for a swim.

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If you can follow these 5 preventative measures when heading for a swim in any one of our fine Michigan Lakes, you can minimize your risk of swimmer's itch and ensure an enjoyable weekend on the water.

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