Prospective study of swimmer's itch incidence and severity

J Parasitol. 2004 Aug;90(4):697-704. doi: 10.1645/GE-237R.


This epidemiologic study reports incidence, severity, and risk factors of swimmer's itch (cercarial dermatitis). Daily diaries about water exposures and swimmer's itch symptoms were completed by 40 riparian households at Douglas Lake, Michigan, for July 2000. Minutes spent in the water, minutes in shallow water, location, time of day, preventive action, age, and gender were recorded for all residents and guests. Incidence of swimmer's itch was 6.8 episodes per 100 water-exposure days. Probability of an episode increased with more days of water use and at locations with onshore winds. Episode severity increased with more time in the water and at the same locations. Age and gender had no effect on incidence or severity. In sum, onset and severity of swimmer's itch are affected by how people interact with the lake, not by their demographic features. More studies of human incidence and severity are needed to convince public health agencies to address this problem at recreational lakes. Study designs that combine epidemiologic and biological data will simultaneously inform public health education and biological control programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fresh Water / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pruritus / epidemiology*
  • Pruritus / parasitology
  • Risk Factors
  • Schistosomiasis / epidemiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / parasitology
  • Skin Diseases, Parasitic / epidemiology*
  • Swimming