Loch Lomond wild swimmers warned over ‘parasite’ after skin reaction

WILD swimmers at Loch Lomond are being warned over potential parasites after eight people reported a rash after being in the waters in recent days.

Among them was a mother of two, who was left horrified after her children and nephew emerged from the water near Ross Priory, Alexandria, with a reaction on Tuesday.

One local first responder believes the parasite is from ducks and other mammals in the water, with the uncomfortable rash lasting up to 72 hours.

Brooke and Brodie, both seven, and 10-year-old Dylan were paddling in the water when they started itching, with mother Debbie McDonald, 44, saying she “had never heard her kids scream and itch like it”.

She said: “I was holding my son’s arms down to stop him from clawing at himself. It was horrific.”


Brooke was the first to show the symptoms: “My daughter came out and started crying as she was itchy. Soon she was screaming.”

“At first we thought she was at it and packed up to go home but by the time we got in the car, the boys were itching too.”

Debbie, a vet from Dumbarton, tried to relieve the itching by showering the kids and administering antihistamines and cream but was ultimately forced to bring them to Dumbarton Health Centre.

“My wee boy was the worst,” she said. “They were going to send him to hospital it was so bad. All three kids were screaming.”

The family regularly enjoys a swim in the area but had never experienced the symptoms.

Debbie has since posted the incident on Facebook, sharing pictures of the kids’ rash to inform others.

Wild water swimming has become an increasingly growing trend during lockdown, however the incident has led to further warnings around the dangers it may bring.

It’s thought those involved in the most recent Loch Lomond incident may have cercarial dermatitis, otherwise known as ‘Swimmer’s itch, which is an itchy rash that can occur after swimming in freshwater lakes and ponds.


The rash is usually caused by an allergic reaction to parasites that live in waterfowl and some mammals and which burrow into the skin.

“I just wanted to let people know,” she said. “I always check for algae but I had never heard of this.

“The doctor was lovely but she hadn’t seen anything like it.”

“She was referring my son to a Glasgow hospital but they said to try steroids and thankfully they worked.”

She added: “It was actually really scary. I couldn’t work out what was wrong.

“At first I thought Brooke was having an allergic reaction to something but then realised it couldn’t be when all the kids started itching.”

“I feel so guilty and I doubt they will ever go paddling again.”

The admin of a local Facebook page campaigning against the closure of the Vale of Leven Hospital also highlighted the issue.

The post on ‘Save The Vale of Level Hospital’ page read: “We have been made aware of people who have been swimming in Loch Lomond, coming out the water with a rash.

“We are awaiting confirmation on the cause of this, if you have experienced this we ask you contact your GP and or NHS 24 on 111. And in any emergency dial 999 “Please stay safe around any open water and remember the Loch and the Leven is very dangerous”

The man, also a member of the local first responders team, said eight swimmers reported a rash on Wednesday.


He told The Herald: “We have been told it is a parasite coming from ducks and other animals.

“The larvae get in the water and stick to the skin and cause a reaction that can last up to 72 hours.”

So far around 300 people have interacted with his warning – something he says he is doing to highlight the issue for families who visit during the warmer weather.

He added: “Many people, mainly children, come down from Glasgow and beyond and get in the water and often parents don’t know they’re here.

“We just want to get the word out as part of what we do is trying to reduce fatalities in water.”

West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) have been contacted for comment.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992