Public health agency for Snohomish County
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Stay healthy and safe while swimming in lakes

Swimming is a healthy and fun summer activity, but Snohomish Health District reminds families to be aware of the risks and take precautions.

About eight people die of drowning each year in Snohomish County, most in our natural lakes, rivers, or Puget Sound. Often, teens and young adults go beyond their limits, not recognizing the dangers of cold water or swift currents.  

Teach your kids to swim. Wear lifejackets when boating. Never swim alone. Few Snohomish County beaches have lifeguards, so always have an adult designated to watch young children. 

Avoid spreading or getting disease

Water can spread bacteria, such as E. coli, from people or animals.

  • People with infectious illness, including vomiting or diarrhea, should not go swimming.
  • Shower thoroughly before entering a pool
  • Small children should be taken on frequent bathroom breaks
  • Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands with soapy water after using the restroom or changing diapers
  • Swimmers should wash your hands and face thoroughly with soapy water before eating or preparing food
Prevent swimmer’s itch

Swimmer's itch is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to parasites that typically infect some birds and mammals. The parasites come from infected snails which live in lakes, ponds, and oceans. After burrowing into a swimmer's skin, the parasite soon dies, causing pimply irritation and itching commonly called “Swimmer’s Itch.”

The parasites are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water more than adults. Also, they are less likely to towel dry themselves when leaving the water.

  • Do not swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted warning of unsafe water
  • Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found
  • Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water
  • Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming.
Public health notice at swimming beaches

The Snohomish Health District is working with local parks departments to ensure that required public health notices (PDF) are present at all beaches, including this language:
“The swimming waters at this beach are not treated to control spread of disease. Swimming beach water, if swallowed, can sometimes cause illness because of bacteria, viruses or parasites in the water. All beach users should follow bathing beach recommendations to prevent contamination of the water and should avoid swallowing of any beach water.”

Last Reviewed and updated 1/6/2014