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Fighting recreational water illness

July 8, 2019

All Posts by MinuteClinic

Swimming is a great form of exercise: It provides a full-body workout without putting pressure on your joints. It's also great for your heart, muscles and lungs. But swimming isn't without its health hazards. Swim safety goes beyond the obvious risks of drowning dangers; germs and chemicals in pools, hot tubs and other water bodies of water can make you sick.

Additionally, swallowing, inhaling or touching contaminated water can cause what's known as recreational water illness (RWI). Chlorine and water filtration systems reduce the risk of some germs, but those preventive measures aren't always fool proof. Too much of these disinfectants can also contribute to skin, nose and eye irritation.

You might not realize your trip to the local pool, beach or water park is to blame. If you're suffering from diarrhea, respiratory problems, or ear infections and skin rash shortly after swimming, you may have RWI.

What should you do? Follow these steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before you hit the water.

Know when to keep out

If you have diarrhea, stay out of the water. Once diarrhea ends, wait two weeks before going swimming. Even after you feel better, your body continues to shed the germs that initially caused your illness.

Take children on frequent bathroom breaks to avoid potty accidents. Remind them not to drink pool water. Blowing bubbles is—sadly—a no-no.

Never go in the water with an open wound or sore, which can easily become infected. Instead, cover it with a fully waterproof bandage or wait until it has healed.

Rinse and repeat

Just one minute of rinsing off is all it takes to remove germs and dirt that can make you and others sick. Rinse yourself before and after leaving the water to get rid of germs and chemicals on your skin.

Do your own inspection

Public pools, spas and water parks are required to follow proper chlorination and water treatment steps. But sometimes they fall short. Improper pH and disinfectant levels account for 15 and 12 percent respectively of inspection violations of public aquatic facilities, according to CDC data.

To make sure the water venue is up to snuff by checking out the latest safety inspection report, which should be located in a visible area. The Water Quality and Health Council also has an online database of public swimming facility inspection reports for 23 states.

You can also do your own water test with pool test strips. You can purchase these at most hardware or home improvement stores, or order a free pool test kit from the Water Quality and Health Council.

What else? Pool tiles should feel clean and smooth, not slimy. The water should be clear, allowing you to see the bottom of the pool. A strong, irritating chemical odor is also cause for worry. If you see pool chemicals lying about or something seems off, don't get in the water, and let the facility manager know.

If a day splashing around leaves you feeling ill, pop on over to MinuteClinic. They can offer treatment tailored to your RWI, including swimmer's ear, hot tub rash, and swimmer's itch, a rash caused by parasites found in natural bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans.

Safe swimming!