Swimmer's Itch reported at Whistler's Alta Lake 

Using beach showers a good way to fight the aquatic parasite

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RMOW - RINSE OFF: a good way to avoid Swimmer's Itch is shower after each swim and vigorously towel dry.
  • Photo courtesy of the RMOW
  • RINSE OFF: a good way to avoid Swimmer's Itch is shower after each swim and vigorously towel dry.

If you are swimming in the beachside waters of Alta Lake best shower off and vigorously towel dry after each dip.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is getting reports of Swimmer's Itch, a pesky, though not harmful rash caused by microscopic parasites of aquatic, migrating birds and some mammals. A larval parasite, called a cercaria, is released by snails and can mistakenly penetrate a person's skin rather than its rightful host, usually a duck. Swimmer's Itch occurs in both freshwater and marine coastal environments and is not related to the quality of the water.

There are outdoor showers at Lakeside and Rainbow beaches on Alta Lake as well as at Lost Lake.

The water quality of Whistler's major beaches is monitored closely. RMOW fish and wildlife technicians collect weekly samples from Lakeside, Wayside, Alpha Lake, Rainbow, and Lost Lake parks from Victoria Day through the Labour Day weekend in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health.

It is not uncommon for Swimmer's Itch to surface in Whistler lakes at this time of year. Try and avoid areas with lots of weed growth. There may be more snails around plants, and there may also be more larvae. There also tends to be more larvae near the shore. So if there is a safe wharf to enter the water from, doing so may reduce your risk of exposure. Applying waterproof sunscreen before bathing may help reduce the number of larvae from penetrating the skin as well.

You will know if you have Itch as it starts as a pinpoint red rash and spreads. It feels like a nettle sting or insect bite. Symptoms can last up to two weeks.

The most common treatments include: avoid scratching, apply plain calamine lotion, take antihistamines, especially at bedtime (these are not recommended for children under six years of age), take shallow, lukewarm baths with three tablespoons of baking soda in the water, take colloidal oatmeal baths and apply cool compresses.

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