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Water-Related Illnesses: Top 5

Water-Related Illnesses: Top 5

There’s nothing like being by the water! Summer is a great time to lounge by the pool, camp next a lake, or enjoy the day at a water park. But what is that lurking in the water? Recreational water illnesses (RWI) are caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim in.

Diarrhea is the most common RWI. Swimmers who are sick with diarrhea, or who have been sick in the last two weeks, risk contaminating pool water with germs.

·         Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite, can stay alive for days in well-maintained pools and cause prolonged diarrhea

·         Giardia, also a parasite, can cause swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrhea. It has a tough outer shell that allows it to survive for up to 45 minutes, even in properly chlorinated pools

·         Other dangerous germs causing diarrhea include Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli O157:H7

Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make you sick. These organisms can be found in pools, water parks, hot tubs, lakes, streams, and oceans.

Hot Tub Rash is primarily caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa and staphylococcus. Symptoms:

·         Itchy, bumpy red spots on the skin

·         Worse in areas that were covered by a swimsuit

·         Pus-filled blisters around where the hair grows out of

Most rashes clear up in a few days without medical treatment. However, if your rash lasts longer than a few days, consult your healthcare provider.

Legionnaire’s Disease is a type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacterium.

·         It’s naturally found in water

·         Hot tubs that are not cleaned and disinfected enough can become contaminated with Legionella

·         A person can get infected when they breathe in steam or mist from a contaminated hot tub

·         It can also be found in cooling towers, plumbing systems, and decorative pools or fountains

·         Legionella is not spread from person to person

Chemical irritation of the eyes and lungs can result from chlorine exposure. Chlorine is commonly added to the water to kill germs. The problem comes when chlorine combines with what comes off our body (urine, poop, sweat, skin cells, and personal care products), forming chlorimine gas. Breathing in these gases can cause:

·         Nose irritation

·         Coughing

·         Wheezing

·         Red and stinging eyes

·         Skin irritation and rashes

Swimmer’s Ear is an infection in the ear canal, caused by leaving contaminated water in the ear after swimming. Symptoms:

·         Itchiness inside the ear

·         Redness and swelling of the ear

·         Pain when the infected ear is tugged or when pressure is placed on the ear (such as laying on it)

·         Pus draining from the infected ear

To reduce the risk of Swimmer’s Ear:

·         Keep your ears as dry as possible

·         Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering

·         Don’t put objects in your ear canal (including cotton-tip swabs, pencils, paperclips, or fingers)

·         Don’t try to remove ear wax. Ear wax helps protect your ear canal from infection

·         Talk with your healthcare provider about using ear drops after swimming

·         Consult your healthcare provider if you have ear pain, discomfort, or drainage from your ears

Prevention against RWIs:

·         Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea or have had diarrhea in the last 2 weeks

·         Stay out of the water if you have an open wound 

·         Use the toilet before getting into the water

·         Shower for one minute before you get in the water

·         Don’t swallow the water

·         Wear a bathing cap while in the water

·         Tell the lifeguard or pool operator immediately if you see poop in the water, smell chemical odors in the swimming area, or experience respiratory, eye, or skin irritation

·         Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30 - 60 minutes. Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside

·         Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers

·         Shower after you get out of the water with soap and water

·         Clean your swimsuit after getting out of the water

·         Ask if your local beach water quality is monitored. If so, check out the latest results


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