Dr. Barbara Huggins

Recreational Water Illness

August 24, 2006

Recreational Water Illness -  August 24, 2006Swimming is one of the most popular activities in the country - especially during these hot summer days. We often assume that because swimming pools are treated with chemicals they are completely safe. But is that really true? UT Health Center's Dr. Mom has more.

Choose to Swim Healthy!
In these dog days of summer, swimming pools will be filled with millions of people having fun and staying cool. But did you know that germs can contaminate swimming water even if it is treated with chlorine? Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are spread by swimming in contaminated recreational waters such as swimming pools, water parks, lakes, and the ocean.

RWIs are caused by germs like "Crypto" (KRIP-toe, short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia (gee-ARE-dee-uh), E. coli 0157:H7, and Shigella (Shi-GE-luh) and are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. 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 recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are killed by chlorine. However, chlorine doesn't work right away. It takes time to kill germs and some germs can live in pools for days. Some germs like Crypto can live for several days in the best-maintained pool. Chlorine does kill all germs, it just takes time.

Healthy swimming behaviors that will protect you and your kids from recreational water illnesses and stop germs from getting in the pool in the first place are:

For all swimmers:
For Parents of young kids:

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