You’ve probably been told that swimming is one of the best ways to stay fit. It’s great for people of all ages and abilities. Nevertheless, there are a few health risks that you should be aware of, especially now that the summer swimming season is gearing up — I’m talking about “recreational water illnesses” or RWIs.
A major type of RWI you can catch from recreational swimming areas is diarrhea. This extremely unpleasant bacteria-caused condition can been spread from the water in two ways. The first is if someone who has diarrhea swims in an area and leaves behind their germs. The second is when a natural swimming area, such as the ocean, a river, or lake, etc., is affected by a sewage spill, animal waste, or other type of contamination that can occur right after it rains.
Other than diarrhea, you can also get infections that affect your eyes, skin, ears, and lungs from swimming in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bacteria that occur naturally in the water or earth cause these types of conditions.
Although chlorine is used by most recreational water facilities, it is not always effective. So, you need to protect yourself. Some of these water-borne illnesses might sound a little scary, but you can avoid them (and help others avoid them) with these 11 smart and simple tips:
1) People with a compromised immune system should take special care and check with their doctor before swimming. Some bacteria can even be life threatening for these people.
2) If you’re at a pool or water park, check out the area to see if it is clean (tiles should not be slippery-feeling) and that the water is clear. There should also be very little odor.
3) Ask questions — don’t feel silly; your health is important. Check with the staff about the maintenance of the pool.
4) Buy a pool chlorine test strip at a home improvement or pool store, and check the pool water yourself for proper pH and chlorine levels. Chlorine levels should be one to two parts per million and the pH should be 7.2 to 7.8.
5) When swimming, avoid getting water in your mouth. If you do by accident, then do not swallow it. This is how illness-causing bacteria can enter your body.
6) Do not go swimming within 24 hours after it rains.
7) Check with your local health department to see which lakes, rivers, and beaches have been deemed safe. They do periodic testing for bacteria levels.
8) Take a shower before and after swimming.
9) If you use the toilet, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. A trick to make sure you do a good job is to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” while you’re scrubbing. The length of the song is equal to a good scrub.
10) If you’re swimming with kids, take them on frequent bathroom breaks.
11) It’s extremely important that you do not swim if you are experiencing or have recently experienced diarrhea. Just having one person not follow this rule can make a whole lot of other people sick.