Public Health Reminds Beach-Goers to Safeguard Against “Swimmer’s Itch”

Written by admin, June 23, 2016

 June 23, 2016 – Itchy Rash Caused By Larvae Found in Shallow Waters Where Snails Abound

Peterborough Public Health reminds local residents to avoid swimming in areas where snails thrive to prevent exposure to larvae which cause “Swimmer’s Itch”.

Swimmer’s Itch is often described as an itchy rash that swimmers develop after swimming in lakes and rivers.  It is caused by tiny larvae in the water that can come from snails and birds.  When swimmers emerge from the lake, the larvae are present on their wet skin.  As the water evaporates, the larvae attempt to burrow into the skin, creating an itchy rash, which may develop into small reddish pimples or blisters.  Swimmer’s Itch is not contagious, and the larvae cannot live in the swimmer’s skin.  Itchiness may last up to a week or more.  Affected persons should not scratch the rash, as secondary infections may develop.

To reduce or avoid the development of Swimmer’s Itch:

  • Towel off briskly and thoroughly immediately after swimming
  • Do not swim or wade in shallow areas where snails are commonly found
  • Do not attract water birds by feeding them near swimming areas
  • Do not swim in areas where Swimmer’s Itch is a known problem

Many factors must be present for Swimmer’s Itch to become a problem in water.  Since these factors change (sometimes within a few days) the larvae responsible for Swimmer’s Itch will not always be present. For more information, visit and click on “My Home & Environment” under “Beach Testing”.

Peterborough Public Health does not test beach water for these larvae, and therefore cannot post signage warning bathers of areas where Swimmer’s Itch may occur.


For further information, please contact:
Atul Jain
Manager, Environmental Health Programs
705-743-1000, ext. 259