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This news item expired on 6/30/2009, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.

Healthy Swimming: How to Protect Yourself Against Illness

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It’s summer again and time to hit the pool. But wait... do you know how to protect yourself from getting sick while swimming?

Swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, lakes and the ocean are all places where you can get sick from the water. Several common illnesses you could get while swimming include cryptosporidium (crypto), giardia, E. coli, norovirus and shigella.

These illnesses can cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How does this happen?
These illnesses are most often caused by swimmers who have diarrhea while swimming or young children with dirty diapers. Droppings from sick animals in a natural water setting like a lake or pond, can also cause illness.

Doesn’t chlorine in pools make them safe?
Not always. Some bacteria, such as crypto and giardia, can survive in a pool - even with correct chlorination levels. These germs can cause serious and life-threatening illness for some people. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who have a weakened immune system are most at risk.

How can swimmers stay healthy?

Tips for all swimmers:

  • Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Never swallow the pool water. Try not to get water in your mouth.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Tips for parents of young children:

  • Take your children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  • Wash your young child well with soap and water before swimming, especially after a dirty diaper. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.

By following a few simple swimming precautions, you can help make your summer a safe and healthy one!

For more information on illnesses spread through the water, visit: cdc.gov/healthyswimming.