Make a healthy splash at pools, waterparks
6/19/2023 by Tessa Hessedal, APRN, C.N.P.
Swimming is a great way for kids and adults to be physically active in the summer. But splashing and swimming at waterparks, public pools, lakes or even home pools can pose a health risk if you swallow contaminated water.
Isn't the water disinfected to kill germs and make it safe, you might ask? Water treatments such as chlorine don't kill germs instantly. Some germs such as cryptosporidium can live in properly treated water for days. Swimming-related illness can occur if you swallow, have contact with or breathe in mist from contaminated water.
Although diarrhea is the most common swimming-related illness, other illness such as skin rashes, ear pain, cough/congestion and eye pain can also occur. It's important to rinse off after swimming and dry your ears. While pool and water play area operators work hard to keep the water as safe as possible, taking these important measures can reduce your risk of illness.
- Stay out of the water if you've have diarrhea in the past two weeks.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour. Remember that swim diapers and swim pants are NOT leakproof.
- Rinse off for one minute before you enter the water play area.
- Wash your hands — preferably with soap — before eating, especially if you have been playing in or touching the sand.
- Drink the water.
- Sit on the water jets.
If you plan to soak in a hot tub, it's good to follow these additional guidelines:
- Don't let children less than five years of age use hot tubs.
- Don't drink alcohol before entering the hot tub or during hot tub use.
- If pregnant, consult a physician before hot tub use, particularly in the first trimester.
- A well-chlorinated hot tub has little odor. A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
Check out the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Healthy Swimming webpages for more information. Taking a few precautions can make your summer swimming adventures fun and healthy!
Tessa Hessedal, APRN, C.N.P., is a certified nurse practitioner in the Department of Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic Express Care in Rochester, Minnesota. She serves on the guideline committee reviewing up-to-date evidence to ensure the best care is provided to patients. She enjoys mentoring students, traveling and spending time with family and friends.