Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 8/20/2004
Subject: Swimmer's Itch
Contact: Brian Cox, Director, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215

The Department of Health and Human Services is notifying the public that the Public Health Branch has received recent reports of swimmer’s itch experienced by recreational users of Benbow Lake. Swimmer’s Itch (schistosome dermatitis) is a common hazard for bathers during the warm summer months in some of the lakes and slow moving streams in Humboldt County.

Swimmer’s Itch occurs when a small parasite burrows under the skin of bathers. The parasite cannot survive in humans and does not infect us. The symptoms, which include tingling skin, moderate to severe itching, and small bumps or eruptions, usually reach maximum intensity after 2-3 days, after which the symptoms subside on their own. There are no long-term effects from Swimmer’s Itch. Sufferers may get relief from oral antihistamines or topical salves or ointments.

To avoid Swimmer’s Itch, swimmers in suspect waters should leave the water every ten minutes and vigorously towel dry. This will help remove the parasites before they burrow into the skin.

For more information on Swimmer’s Itch, contact the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Branch at 445-6200, or Division of Environmental Health at 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241. If you have questions about treatment, call you doctor.


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