August 17, 2017


12° C, Fog

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

Swim-and-scratch season here

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2013 (1499 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's as inevitable as the sun rising on a summer day. Swimmer's itch is back at Manitoba's lakes.

Cases of swimmer's itch have been confirmed in the past week at Winnipeg Beach and Moose Lake Provincial Park.

Swimmer's itch infections have been confirmed at Winnipeg Beach (above) and Moose Lake Provincial Park.


Swimmer's itch infections have been confirmed at Winnipeg Beach (above) and Moose Lake Provincial Park.

This occurs when humans choose to swim where animals and plants live.

"It's a natural phenomenon. It happens fairly regularly in a number of Manitoba lakes, so it's really not unusual. It happens every year," said Nicole Armstrong, director of Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship's water science and management branch.

There are swimmer's-itch reports from three to 17 lakes a year in Manitoba.

Advisory signs have been posted at Winnipeg Beach and Moose Lake park and will remain up all summer.

"We can't test for swimmer's itch, so it's impossible to know if it has completely cleared the area, so we find the signs give the public some basic information," Armstrong said.

She said the province's protocol is to post advisory signs when even one case has been confirmed by a medical professional.

Swimmer's itch manifests as an itchy red rash that shows up after swimming in water containing the parasite that causes it.

The parasite is a worm that originates in the intestines of waterfowl and aquatic mammals such as beavers. Its eggs are passed into the water through the host creature's feces.

After a short stay with snails, the eggs hatch into worms that seek out the waterfowl or aquatic mammal host. People get swimmer's itch when these worms, or cercariae, penetrate the skin. The worms die soon after.

Swimmer's itch usually shows up in hot weather, as warm water assists in the parasites' development. It's more common in lakes where there are a lot of aquatic plants, as that's the home of the parasite-carrying snails. For that reason, Armstrong said, it's rarer in Lake Winnipeg.

"We don't typically see swimmer's itch at large Winnipeg beaches where there are not aquatic plants, because snails really like weeds and aquatic plants and they are a critical part of the life cycle (of the parasite). If we don't have snails, we don't have swimmer's itch," she said.

To prevent swimmer's itch, avoid going in the water if it has occurred there.

Rinse off right after being in the water and vigorously towel the water from the skin.

There are showers on many Manitoba beaches, such as Winnipeg Beach and Grand Beach.

Read more by Ashley Prest.


Advertise With Us


Updated on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 7:35 AM CDT: adds fact box, adds link

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Photo Store

Scroll down to load more