This hot weather is great for enjoying lovely lakes and pools in Thurston County. Swimming is fun, great exercise, and is a refreshing way to cool off. There are some hazards to be aware of when swimming.
According to SafeKids.org, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4. Actively supervise kids in and around water with undivided attention. Teach kids that they always need an adult with them when swimming. Older, more experienced swimmers should always swim with a buddy and be aware of swimming skill levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the main factors that influence drowning are lack of swimming ability, lack of close supervision, failure to wear life jackets, and alcohol use. For more information on preventing drowning, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Home & Recreational Safety website.
Blue-green algae can produce a toxin that can cause stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea and some people may have allergic reactions to it. Thurston County Environmental Health posts advisories online when local lakes have toxic blue-green algae. To lower your risk of exposure when blue-green algae is present, avoid contact with lake water, avoid drinking untreated surface water, keep pets and livestock out of the water, avoid boating in areas of scum, and if you choose to fish in a lake with a toxic algae bloom - catch and release is recommended. Thurston County Environmental Health has a Lake Watch volunteer program. Sign up here.
Swimmer’s Itch is a skin rash that comes from parasite commonly found in aquatic animals. The tiny larvae search for a host. Humans are not natural hosts, but the larvae can remain on our skin as we leave the water. As the water evaporates or runs off, the remaining larvae burrow into the skin. Since humans are not suitable hosts, the larvae die. When this happens, the skin becomes irritated. Symptoms include tingling, burning, and itching of the skin with small reddish pimples appearing within 12 hours which may become small blisters.
The itching can last about a week, but the rash can take up to 30 days to recover. Scratching the rash can lead to a bacterial infection. To relieve some of the symptoms of Swimmer’s Itch you may use a corticosteroid cream, calamine lotion, a cool compress, bathe in Epsom salts, baking soda, or oatmeal baths, or apply a baking soda and water paste to the rash. Consult your doctor for additional information on treatment.
To prevent Swimmer’s Itch avoid swimming in areas where there is evidence of ducks and geese, do not swim or wade in marshy areas, and shower, towel off, or wipe the water off the body with the palms of your hands immediately after swimming.
Leeches are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem. They feed on worms, snails, and insect larvae and some feed on fish, reptiles, and mammals. They are food for fish, ducks, and turtles. Leeches prefer shallow, protected areas of lakes with aquatic weeds and submerged branches. Leeches can attach to humans.
If you find a leech on your skin – do not pull it off! This could leave the mouthparts of the leech still stuck in your skin and cause an infection. Instead, use salt or heat to make the leech let go of your skin. Then clean and bandage the leech bite to prevent infection. It is common for a leech bite to ooze for several hours after the leech is removed and there may be itching or an allergic reaction. Leeches in our region are not known to transmit disease to humans.
So far this summer, we have seen a lot of heat! Be safe when you're out enjoying the water and take all necessary precautions to prevent accidents and illnesses.