Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with recreational water illnesses (RWIs) such as diarrhea.
With summer recreation near its peak, the Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Environmental Quality (DEQ) are reminding residents of some simple tips they can take to stay safe when swimming in private and public pools.
"We all share the water we swim in," said James K. Haveman, director of the MDCH. "To protect yourself, your family, and other swimmers from germs, we have a few simple recommendations that everyone should take each time they swim."
RWIs are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Diarrhea is the most common RWI but other common RWIs include skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for RWIs.
Many children and adults have experienced stinging, red eyes after swimming in a pool and often attribute it to the chlorine in the water. However, it's not actually the chlorine that makes our eyes red but rather chemicals, called chloramines, which are formed when human proteins (from sweat or urine) combine with pool chlorine.
Chloramines not only irritate eyes, they also irritate the respiratory tract and can aggravate asthma. Mixing of chlorine with urine not only creates chloramines, but it also uses up the chlorine in the pool that is needed to kill germs.
Go to the bathroom, not in the pool.
- Both adults and children should take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes and diapers should be checked every 3060 minutes.
- Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside where germs can get into the water.
Wash or rinse off before you start swimming.
- Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet, changing diapers, or eating.
- Rinse off before getting back into the water.
Check the chlorine and pH levels before getting into the water.
- Proper chlorine and pH levels maximize germ-killing power.
- Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.
Don't swallow swimming pool water.
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.
To learn more about pool chemical safety storage and handling, visit www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Pool_Chemical_Safety_fact_sheet_418403_7.pdf.