Rangers at Sand Hollow say warm weather makes ‘Swimmer’s itch’ parasite more active

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-24 23:44:38-04

HURRICANE, Utah - A naturally occurring parasite in Utah waters could cause a itchy summer for some young swimmers. Rangers at Sand Hollow State Park say 'swimmer’s itch' is already active.

The parasite is cercaria, a microscopic organism transferred through bird feces. Normally it lies dormant in the water, but rangers said warm temperatures have been aiding reproduction.

“When the water hits over 80 degrees is when we see it,” said park ranger Doug Denton. “The water is nice and warm. It creates a nice little breeding season for them.”

Swimmer's itch presents as a rash, typically on younger children. It appears similar to mosquito bites. Itching may last up to a week, and can be treated with anti-itch lotions. Denton said only about 7 percent of those who get in the water end up with swimmer’s itch, but they sill post a sign at the entrance of the park to make people aware.

“Lately it’s kind of been all over, but generally it’s found in the coves or areas where the water gets pretty stagnant,” Denton said.

St. George resident Andrea Brown said she typically brings her family to Sand Hollow Reservoir a couple times every summer. They’re aware of the parasite, but aren’t too worried.

“We’ve had one or two kids get it, but it’s pretty easy to deal with and we don’t get it every time,” Brown said. “Won’t stop us from having fun.”

Denton said swimmers can normally avoid getting swimmer's itch by applying a good sunscreen lotion and letting it dry before getting in the water, also drying off with a towel immediately after getting out of the water.

Additional tips for avoiding swimmer's itch from the CDC include:

• Do not swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted warning of unsafe water
• Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found
• Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water
• Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming