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Department of Health News

Safety in the Pool This Summer

This summer, swimming pools will be filled with hundreds of people having fun and staying cool. But did you know that germs can contaminate swimming water even if it is treated with chlorine? Learning about recreational water Photo of child in a pool.illnesses (RWIs), which are spread by swimming in contaminated recreational waters such as swimming pools, water parks, lakes, and the ocean can protect you from illness.

RWIs are caused by germs like "Crypto" (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, E. coli 0157:H7, and Shigella and are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. Most people would expect creeks, rivers or lakes to be contaminated with germs from wildlife or farm animals, but how does a pool get contaminated? You share the water with everyone in the pool. If someone with diarrhea contaminates the water, swallowing the water can make you sick.

The great news is that germs causing RWIs are killed by chlorine. However, chlorine doesn’t work right away. It takes time to kill germs, and some germs like "Crypto" can live in pools for days. That is why even the best maintained pools can spread germs. Therefore, Healthy Swimming behaviors are needed to help protect you, your kids, and other swimmers from RWIs by helping stop germs from getting in the pool in the first place. Here are six steps that promote Healthy Swimming:

Three Steps for All Swimmers

Keep germs from causing illnesses (RWIs) when swimming:

  1. Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  2. Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  3. 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.
  4. Remember that the chance of germs can be higher in open bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and streams. Avoid getting water in your mouth or allowing your children to swallow the water.

Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids

Keep germs out of the pool:

  1. Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
  2. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  3. Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.