About Swimmer's Itch

Swimmer’s itch, also known as cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These parasites are released from infected snails into fresh and salt water, such as lakes, ponds, and oceans. When people swim or wade in these waters, the microscopic parasites can burrow into their skin, causing an itchy rash. Typically, the parasites die soon after entering human skin, as humans are not suitable hosts. The rash itself is usually temporary and not serious, manifesting as small, reddish pimples or blisters that appear within minutes to days after exposure.

Prevention of swimmer’s itch involves avoiding swimming in areas known to be infested with the parasites, especially during peak times in the warmer months when the snails and parasites are most active. For those who do develop swimmer’s itch, treatment generally includes over-the-counter anti-itch lotions or antihistamines to alleviate symptoms. In most cases, the rash clears up within a week, but persistent or severe symptoms may require consultation with a healthcare provider.

Swimmer's Itch on Bay Lake

Since July of 2022, our committee has been gathering scientific data necessary to build a case to obtain a Minnesota DNR permit that would lead to the reduction of Swimmer’s Itch cases on Bay Lake.  Our process involves the live capture and relocation of common merganser ducks found on Bay Lake.  The initial word from the MN DNR came in Mid-May 2023 and was “no, but we’ll research the topic more over the summer”.  Unfortunately their continued “research” into the problem led to our permit being denied for 2023 in late July. Although it was not entirely unexpected, we were disappointed by their marginalizing of the problem as a nuisance with “mechanical fixes” such as toweling off or showering as solutions to prevent Swimmer’s Itch.

Our committee remains focused and is pursuing alternative measures for the permit approval.  We plan on resubmitting to the Minnesota DNR in 2024.  We continue to engage our scientific consultants, Swimmer’s Itch Solutions.  S.I.S. has a proven track record of reducing cases of Swimmer’s Itch in Michigan through the relocation process.  They have been retained by BLIA to carry out the process on Bay Lake upon the issuance of a permit from the MN DNR. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has already tentatively signed off on the necessary federal permit pending State of Minnesota approval.

Below is a link to our 2023 Swimmer’s Itch Survey.  More than ever, we need your support.  Swimmer’s Itch is misunderstood by the MN DNR and the relocation process is completely new to them.  We need to gather as much information on how this problem impacts our use and enjoyment of Bay Lake.  One of the best ways to show your support for our efforts is by completing the survey and helping us gather more information to build our case.

Common Mergansers

Throughout the winter our committee has continued its efforts in pursuing the Minnesota DNR for a relocation permit.  We have combined our forces with Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates as well as Hospitality Minnesota.  Two organizations of lobbyists working on behalf of Minnesotans.  MLR works on behalf of the individual cabin and lake homeowners while Hospitality MN represents resort owners and the hospitality industry of Minnesota in general.  Both groups offer our committee a unique perspective into the State of Minnesota Legislature.  We also maintain a strong and ongoing relationship with our scientific consultants, Swimmer’s Itch Solutions.  Our committee remains focused on our objective and intend to reapply with the Minnesota DNR for our 2024 relocation permit.  It is our belief the relationship with MLR and Hospitality MN will ultimately lead to a successful effort this year.