Lenawee County Health Department’s Guide for Fresh Water Summer Fun
Lenawee County is known as one of the best destinations for water-based recreation. With our 59 Lakes, several ponds, Bean Creek, and the River Raisin that twists and turns its way throughout Lenawee County, there are several opportunities to enjoy yourself this summer with our natural bodies of water. Whether you are hanging out at the beach in Hudson, boating on Devils Lake, swimming at Wamplers Lake, kayaking down the River Raisin, or just playing in the creek at Medina Park, there are several things you should keep in mind as you enjoy yourself in our natural habitat.
More Than Meets the Eye – Swimming in Natural Bodies of Water
While we love our lakes in Lenawee, we aren’t the only living things in these natural bodies of water. Fish, animals, other people, and various organisms utilize these bodies of water as well.
While enjoying them is super fun, it’s important to remember that the water we swim in can also spread germs, which can make you very sick. These germs usually come from human or animal feces (poop), which can either get carried into the water from heavy rain or come from animals (or humans) defecating in the water. As they say, poop happens.
Why is this potentially not a great thing (besides the overall ick factor)? Well, water contaminated with these germs can make you sick when you swallow it. It can also cause an infection if you get into the water with any open cut or wound.
Taking some of these precautions can help everyone when you visit our water wonderland:
- If you are already immune-compromised, please check with your healthcare provider to see what their recommendation is regarding your recreation plans.
- If the water looks cloudier than usual, discolored, or smells bad – don’t go in it.
- If you are sick with diarrhea, don’t go in the water.
- If you have an open cut or wound (including from new piercings), be careful. Utilize waterproof bandages to completely cover the open skin, or better yet, wait until you heal.
- Don’t swallow the water and keep sand away from your children’s mouths (we know – easier said than done, but so important!)
- This seems like everyone should know this, but we are going to put it here in black and white: don’t poop in the water. It will make others sick. Also, it is gross. Just don’t do it.
- Every hour, make everyone leave the water to take care of their bathroom needs. Check diapers. This will help keep poop and pee out of the water.
- Before you eat, WASH YOUR HANDS. (For at least 20 seconds!) If you don’t have access to soap and clean water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Shower after as soon as possible after you are done swimming.
Toes in the Sand – NEW Beach Monitoring in Lenawee County
Lenawee County Health Department Environmental Health Staff will soon be collecting water samples from two public beaches in Lenawee County. Starting in July and continuing through September, weekly samples will be collected from the public beaches at Hayes State Park and the Lake Hudson Recreation Area. To protect public health and to prevent the spread of disease, the samples will be analyzed for E. coli bacteria levels.
The Michigan Public Health Code sets limits for levels of bacteria in all bodies of water, including bathing beaches open to the public. If the levels detected during monitoring exceed these limits, the risk of illness increases. A health advisory will be issued for a beach if testing shows that bacteria levels are higher than the state safety standard. At that time, signs will be posted on the beach to indicate that it may be unsafe to swim and that the beach is under a health advisory. Advisories will be lifted when additional sampling shows that bacteria levels have dropped below the state’s standard. We will also post this information on our website here, so you can check before you head to the beach.
Critters, Bugs, and Pests, Oh My!
Another thing to remember while you are recreating in the water is that other fun life forms enjoy the same space as well. Some share better than others.
Swimmer's itch is a natural phenomenon that occurs in many water bodies in Michigan. It is a temporary skin irritation caused by an invisible parasite found in lakes and ponds. The skin irritation appears as small itchy welts resembling a rash or mosquito bites. The welts are caused by a tiny parasitic organism that normally lives in the blood of waterfowl.
The parasite's eggs are passed out of the bird and develop into larvae that seek out snails. Once they mature, they enter the water again to seek out birds, but sometimes select a human by mistake. Humans are not suitable hosts for the parasite, so it dies and is dissolved. Our body reacts to the intrusion by treating the organism as a mild allergy and produces histamines that can cause a red itchy welt. These itchy bumps are no more serious than an insect bite and can be treated with anti-itch creams.
Found around the world, chiggers live outdoors on plants in wooded or grassy areas, typically around water. They are most active during the summer months when temperatures are hot. Because chiggers don't burrow into your skin and the rash usually starts after the mites have already detached from the skin, treatment specifically to remove the mites isn't needed. Instead, treatment for chigger bites focuses on alleviating itchiness: anti-itch creams, cold compresses, or taking an antihistamine.
Mosquitos thrive near water. Remember to Fight the Bite! with us this summer season and join our ‘SWAT Team’ against vector-borne diseases. All residents can take simple, everyday precautions to protect themselves against vector-borne illnesses.
How Do I Know It’s Safe to Swim?
You are the best person to decide when and if it is safe to swim at a particular location. Our changing weather means that swimming conditions can vary throughout the day and from day to day.
Our Environmental Health staff does not routinely sample water bodies located on private property, but you can order test kits online to see if it is safe to swim.
We will post signs and website notices for the two public beaches that we monitor and test at the swimming site. No other public bodies are routinely tested and you should utilize your own discretion prior to determining if it is safe to swim.
If there is a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) near a public body of water, we will issue a public no-contact notice on that body of water until the proper testing can be completed to make sure it is once again safe for contact. That notice will be posted on our website and on our social media channels, and you can also sign up for our water alerts to be notified by email.