Swimmer’s Itch

2020 swimmer's itch case reporting is now closed for the season.

Locations and severity of reported swimmer's itch cases have been updated during the season.

To see the 2020 annual report, click here.

The annual reports from prior years can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Donate here to help fund our efforts to control swimmer's itch

Swimmer's Itch FAQs

Latest research findings, future research direction, "smart swimming" techniques

Click here to read our Lake Biologist's summary of the latest swimmer's itch research findings, direction of future research and "smart swimming" techniques.

How does swimmer's itch occur and what does it look like?

If you'd like to learn more about swimmer's itch and its history, this MSU Extension Bulletin WQ-58 provides a readable summary.

For examples of what swimmer's itch looks like, click Here or Here.

How can I avoid swimmer's itch?

You can avoid swimmer's itch by using the "smart swimming" techniques described in our Lake Biologist's report, as follows.

  1. Avoid swimming when the wind is blowing on-shore.  The cercaria (“worms”) drift with wind and currents, and are concentrated in shallow waters when the wind blows in.  When it is blowing away from the land, worms are blown out to deeper water and dispersed.
  2. Swim later in the day. The cercaria are released early in the morning by snails, but they live less than a day.  If you swim in the afternoon, the concentration of cercaria is almost always much lower than early in the morning.
  3. If you must swim and suspect that conditions are not perfect, or if you are exceptionally susceptible to swimmer’s itch, consider wearing a “rash guard.” These are commercially available suits that prevent direct water/skin contact, making it nearly impossible for the cercaria to penetrate your skin.

What can I do if I get swimmer's itch?

Itching may start from the time you are in the water up to a day later, and will last for about a week, accompanied by a rash. If itching and rash are severe contact a doctor for treatment. Temporary relief may be achieved through taking over-the-counter antihistamines, using anti –itch creams/lotions, or soaking in oatmeal or Epsom salts baths.

Swimmer's Itch Reports and Links

Click on the links below for details of reported swimmer's itch cases by
location and severity.  2020 cases will be presented in map and spreadsheet form for both North and South Lake Leelanau, and updated every 1-2 weeks.

2020 Annual Report
2019 Annual Report
2018 Annual Meeting Report
2018 North Lake Map
2018 South Lake Map
2017 North Lake Map
2017 South Lake Map
2017 Summary Report
2016 North Lake Map
2016 South Lake Map
2015 North Lake Map
2015 South Lake Map
2014 North Lake Map
2014 South Lake Map
2013 North Lake Map
2013 South Lake Map
2012 North Lake Map
2012 South Lake Map

2 thoughts on “Swimmer’s Itch”

  1. Our dock and floating mat are swarming with a family of 9 brown ducks! The mess is horrific. I believe it is a merganser family that moves north along the shore from 2735 North Lake Leelanau Dr.
    Any assistance you could give us in locating the nest would be helpful.
    What diameter would the tree hole be? We have several holes in trees, but they seem too small for ducks.

  2. It sounds as if you are describing a family of mallards. We have surveyed North Lake as recently as yesterday, and found and removed only one merganser brood. Please send Wayne Swallow (leelanaubound@gmail.com) your email address and he will send you pictures of mallards and mergansers.

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