Recreational water illnesses: Prevention and precaution
With summer upon us, it’s only a matter of time before families and children start frequenting public pools, water parks, and splash pads for some refreshing fun. Despite the sunny weather, laughter and playing, these public water areas are not all fun and games. Signs requesting patrons to shower before entering the water are often overlooked, but showering is an important way to reduce the spread of common recreational water illnesses (RWIs).
What are RWIs?
Germs can be spread by swallowing, breathing or having contact with contaminated water. RWIs can appear as many different infections, including skin, ear and eye infections. Common RWI symptoms are fever, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Killing the germs that chlorine can’t
Although many public pools use large amounts of chlorine to kill the kinds of germs that can lead to RWIs, some water illnesses take longer to eliminate. Cryptosporidiosis is one type of RWI that can live for days, even in properly disinfected water. Steps like rinsing off before entering public water are important in protecting others from these kinds of recreational water illnesses.
What do RWIs mean to parents?
University of Michigan C.S Mott Children’s Hospital recently published the results of a poll that looked at parents’ perception of RWI risks in public pools. Though 41% of parents reported having taken their kids to a water park in the last year, only 15% consider there to be a large risk of their children being infected by a water-related illness. Parents often consider drowning to be the main concern when visiting public pools. However, RWIs affect more than 10,000 Americans each year, making the chance of catching a water-borne illness greater than drowning.
The majority of parents polled underestimated their roles in preventing RWIs when visiting these public areas. Parents are usually quick to remind their children not to drink the water, but some find it hard to rationalize having their kids rinse off before entering the water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “On average, people have about 0.14 grams of feces on their bottoms which, when rinsed off, can contaminate recreational water.” It is therefore imperative that parents take the proper hygienic methods to prevent the spreading of RWIs in public pools.
Easy steps for preventing RWIs
- Ensure your children shower with soap before entering public water
- Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and make sure to regularly check diapers
- Change diapers in the bathroom, not by public water or on the pool deck
- Remind children not to drink or swallow pool water
- Do not let your children swim if they have diarrhea
Compliments of AboutKidsHealth.com