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Itching to hit the lake? Lake might itch back

CDC graphic To prevent lake itch, apply a waterproof sunscreen or other skin oil. Rub down quickly with a towel when you are done swimming. Swim in deeper waters with an offshore breeze when possible.

Minnesota is known for its thousands of lakes that can provide recreation of all sorts. However, that refreshing dip in the lake may come with a price - swimmer's itch.

Swimmer's itch or lake itch is an epidemic that sweeps through many lakes every summer.

It occurs when a flatworm is embedded into the epidermal layer of skin. Once it has entered the skin, it will cause bumps throughout the skin and itching can occur.

Lake itch comes from snails that flatworms have shed their eggs onto. After a few weeks, the worm will leave its host and look for another host, such as a human.

"Lake itch comes from snails and when you're treating lake itch, you're treating snails," said Leslie George, aquatic plant management specialist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Typically, lake itch occurs during late June or early July when the water has warmed up.

If the spring was warmer than usual, lake itch may come earlier than late June.

Once lake itch has come into contact with skin, it is important to rinse off with clean water, dry off briskly with a towel and remove wet bathing suits.

Lake itch will begin to show on skin once the water droplets have evaporated and the organism has burrowed into the skin.

Lake itch can be treated by requesting a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to treat the lake with copper sulfate.

In the Douglas County area the only lake association to have requested a permit for lake itch from the Department of Natural Resources is Lake Osakis.

Not all lakes in the area are reported when they have lake itch. It is still important to find out if a lake has had reports of lake itch before taking a swim.