Reports of ‘swimmer’s itch’ at Beckenham Place Park lake

Swimmers are being warned that the parasite that causes ‘swimmer’s itch’ is present in the lake at Beckenham Place Park. 

Swimmer’s itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, comes out as an itchy rash caused by microscopic parasites burrowing into the skin – they are released from infected snails into water. 

According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention: “The parasite’s preferred host is the specific bird or mammal, if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash. 

“Swimmer’s itch is found throughout the world and is more frequent during summer months.”  

PTP Coaching, which run activities at the lake in Beckenham Place Park in partnership with Lewisham Council, has put a warning on its website after some swimmers complained of being bitten.  

It said: “A few lake users have now reported bites appearing after their swims.  

“They are coming from a small microbe that grows in lakes and rivers in the summer.  

“We recommend swimmers bring a bottle of fresh water to rinse off after their swim, dry off vigorously immediately afterwards and go home to wash with soap and water.”

The cycle:

The parasite usually lives in the blood of infected animals, such as birds and mammals.

It then produces eggs that are passed in the faeces of the host – if the eggs are released into water, they hatch, releasing “free-swimming microscopic larvae”, which search for aquatic snails. 

They then infect the snail, which in turn releases a different type of larvae, which searches for another host, such as a bird or a mammal.

Humans are not suitable hosts, but the microscopic larvae can burrow into the swimmer’s skin – they cannot develop inside a human and die quickly.