Healthy Swimming
06/09/2003
Before you take a splash in the pool, hot tub, lake or your local waterpark, there’s something you should know. Germs can contaminate swimming water and cause illness known as recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

RWIs are caused by germs like Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E. Coli and Shigella and are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Because the water is shared with everyone, one person with diarrhea can easily contaminate the water and spread illnesses. Several illnesses can be contracted from swimming including:

  • Diarrheal illness
  • Skin rashes
  • Ear infections
  • Eye infections
  • Respiratory infections

You should also avoid swimming in lakes, rivers and oceans that have been
identified as unsafe by the health departments. These areas can become contaminated with germs from animal waste and sewage.

Although germs causing RWIs are killed by chlorine, some are resistant and can live in pools for days before dying. Even the best maintained pools are not immune. More than 15,000 swimmers became ill from swimming during the past decade. 

Learn healthy swimming behaviors and help prevent RWIs. The CDC recommends the following tips:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. This is especially important for kids in diapers.
  • Don’t swallow the pool water. Try to avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and after changing diapers. You can protect others by remembering  that germs on your body end up in the water. 
  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s too late.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread disease.
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. We all have invisible amounts of fecal matter on our bottoms that end up in the pool.