July 24, 2020
A refreshing swim is the perfect way to beat the heat. And while it can be tempting to jump in any water you can find on a hot summer day, it’s important to make sure that you’re swimming in a sanitary environment to avoid getting sick.
Recreational water illnesses (RWI) are caused by swimming in pools, hot tubs, fountains, water parks, rivers, lakes, or oceans where germs and chemicals are present. They can be spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water, or by breathing in the mists and aerosols that come off the water.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from RWIs this summer.
If you’re swimming in a public pool, always check the pool’s latest inspection results to ensure the pool has been well maintained. If the report isn’t posted, ask a lifeguard or pool operator for the report to review before you swim.
If you’re swimming in a residential pool, use pool test strips to check the water’s pH and chlorine levels. But keep in mind – chlorine doesn’t kill germs instantly, so it’s important to practice the following healthy swimming tips to reduce your risk of getting sick:
• Some germs that may cause digestive issues can live for several days in chlorinated water, so if you have stomach bug, or don't feel well, stay out of the water.
• Before going in the water, cover any cuts or scrapes with a waterproof bandage.
• Always shower with soap before and after swimming.
• Don’t swallow pool water.
• Protect your ears by keeping them dry using ear plugs or a bathing cap.
• Take children for frequent bathroom breaks to avoid accidents, and make sure everyone washes their hands.
• Follow all pool rules regarding swim diapers.
Unlike swimming pools, water conditions can change rapidly in lakes, rivers, and oceans, so it’s important to take extra precautions when swimming in natural water environments. In addition to the swimming tips mentioned above, be sure to also follow these recommendations:
• Do not go swimming after it rains. Contaminants can be washed into the water during a rain storm.
• Properly dispose of trash and other waste – especially on boats.
• Never swim in any water with discharge pipes nearby.
• Avoid swimming if blue-green algai bloom is visible.
• Avoid feeding birds and other animals near lakes, rivers, and other places people swim.
RWIs can range from minor stomach bugs to very serious conditions that require emergency care. Practicing these simple safe swimming habits will ensure you have healthy fun in the sun all summer long.