Avoiding Recreational Water Illnesses

By: Jessica Aspiras Email
By: Jessica Aspiras Email

"Anytime you're putting your head underwater, you're getting water into you nose, into your ears, around your eyes. Sometimes you get a little bit in your mouth," says Ingham Regional Medical Center's Dr. John Dery.

Making you susceptible to a variety of recreational water illnesses -- even if the water you're swimming in is chlorinated.

"A lot of the chemicals that we use to keep the water balanced can cause irritation to the eye causing a chemical conjunctivitis."

Also known as pink eye.Wearing swim goggles can help prevent that. But it can't help stop the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses like diahrrea.

"Anytime you have kids swimming in the pool with you, they should have clean diapers. Parents should be extra vigilant to make sure the diapers are kept clean."

"Any skin diseases, or anything like that, that you can see, they're not supposed to get in the water as well as open wounds they're not supposed to get in the water," says East Lansing Aquatic Center's Josi Dunham.

She says there's never been an outbreak of illness at the pool.

"It's always chlorinated, there's never a time that the pool is not chlorinated."

With natural water, however, that's not the case. Swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers predisposes you to more types of infections, like swimmers ear and swimmers itch.

"The parasite gets on your skin. Mostly you can find it in the creases where you have your bathing suit, tight fitting in your armpits, also your groin or anywhere else you get the redness or irritation," explains Dr. Derry.

But RWIs aren't enough to stop many from enjoying summer swimming.

"If they do get something like that nowadays they have so much stuff that takes care of it so quickly," says Ashley Wicker.

Adds Jill Jacobs, "I think the pros of being in the water and swimming outweigh the cons."

Six "PLEAs" For Healthy Swimming: Protection Against Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)

Healthy Swimming behaviors are needed to protect you and your kids from RWIs and will help stop germs from getting in the pool in the first place.

Here are six "PLEAs" that promote Healthy Swimming:
Three "PLEAs" for All Swimmers

Practice these three "PLEAs" to stop germs from causing illness at the pool:

Please don't swim when you have diarrhea. This is especially important for kids in diapers. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

Please don't swallow the pool water. In fact, avoid getting water in your mouth.

Please practice good hygiene. Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Three "PLEAs" for Parents of Young Kids
Follow these three "PLEAs" to keep germs out of the pool and your community:

Please take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.

Please change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.

Please wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their bottoms that ends up in the pool.

Source: Centers for Disease Control


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