As the sun shines and temperatures rise this summer, many of us will take the family for a swim to beat the heat. While everyone loves to have fun in the water, it’s important to be aware of the potential illnesses that can live there.
Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are spread by contact with contaminated water.
Simply breathing in mist or swallowing the smallest bit of contaminated water is enough to make an individual sick. RWIs can affect the ears, eyes, open wounds and gastrointestinal tract.
While chlorine in pools does kill most germs, it does not always kill them instantly. There are germs that can survive for days in the pool and exposure during this time can lead to illness.
The most common illness is diarrhea. This can be caused by several different germs, the most notorious of these being Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium). Crypto is a parasite protected by an outer shell that helps it survive outside the body and tolerate chlorine. It is currently the leading cause of waterborne illness in the country.
Here are some ways to help prevent Recreational Water Illness:
- Swimmers should never relieve themselves in the water. For kids wearing swim diapers, this means taking a break every hour for checking and changing if needed.
- Individuals who are or have recently suffered from diarrhea should not get in the water. Even microscopic amounts of infected fecal matter can contaminate the water for other swimmers.
Of course, chlorinated pools aren’t the only way to enjoy the water with additional options like oceans, lakes and rivers. In fact, natural sources of water have more potential risk factors for RWIs including bacteria, algae, sewage spills, animal waste and chemical runoff.
Because of these additional risk factors, it is important to check water conditions to determine if it is safe to swim. The EPA monitors and reports the condition of water to determine if it is safe for swimmers.