If you have spent any time recently in a Montana lake or pond, you know how warm that water feels, even early in the morning.

As is often the case, that warmer water increases the likelihood of creepy things wanting to find their way in or on you. Close to home I have experienced this over the years in Frenchtown Pond, where, if I don't wear my waders while out on my float tube, I will come back to shore and soon notice "the itch."

While most of these recent reports are not in bodies of water real close to us here in western Montana, they are popular. So, you might want to know what we've heard this week should any of these be on your agenda in the near future.

A recent warning posted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks encourages water users planning on going to Noxon Rapids Reservoir and Cabinet Gorge Reservoir to be cautious of the possibility of Swimmer’s Itch being present in the water. Swimmer’s itch appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. While the parasite’s preferred host is birds or mammals, if they come into contact with a swimmer, they burrow into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash. Most cases of swimmer’s itch do not require medical attention. But to reduce the risk of infection after water exposure, shower and towel off immediately after extended contact with these waters.

Of greater health concerns can be harmful algae blooms, like the ones present on Hebgen Reservoir. Routine monitoring has confirmed the presence of toxins that pose a risk to people, pets and livestock.

Ingestion or prolonged contact with the algae bloom may result in illness, with signs such as muscle twitching, staggering, convulsions, paralysis and death. Children and pets are more likely to ingest the infested waters because they spend most of their time wading in the shallow waters where algae can accumulate, and they have less control over how much water they ingest.

Health experts recommend people not swim or take part in activities likely to result in exposure to the toxin in areas where the algal bloom is present.


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