Although cercarial dermatitis is an emerging disease world-wide, cases of such dermatitis may often go undiagnosed, especially in communities that are affected by various skin infections. Between August 2001 and July 2002, 1336 individuals from tribal villages in central India were examined for dermatitis. Skin scrapings were collected and examined for Sarcoptes scabiei and each subject's response to antiscabies treatment was recorded. Freshwater snails were collected from the local ponds used for bathing, and examined for cercariae. The recorded prevalence of dermatitis ranged between 2.1% and 12.5% during the study year, peaking at the end of winter (February-March) and during the rainy season (August-October). Snail positivity for cercariae peaked in the rainy season. The prevalence and the severity of dermatitis were both higher in children than in adults. As most recorded cases of dermatitis were associated with a rash that developed soon after bathing in the local pond, all the skin scrapings were negative for itch mites, and the response to antiscabies treatment was poor, most if not all of the dermatitis observed was probably cercarial. Cercarial dermatitis therefore appears to be a significant health problem among the tribal populations of central India.