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Safe to Swim? How to Prevent Recreational Water Illness

How can you prevent RWIs?

Don't assume that water is sterile just because it's been chlorinated. It can take time - days, in some cases - for chlorine to kill some of the tougher germs. Everybody can pitch in to prevent the spread of recreational water illnesses. The CDC recommends the following six steps to prevent the spread of RWIs:

  1. Don't swim when you have diarrhea. This is especially important for kids in diapers. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  2. Don't swallow the pool water. In fact, avoid getting water your mouth.
  3. Practice good hygiene. Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
  4. Take your kids on bathroom breaks or change diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
  5. Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.
  6. Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their bottoms that ends up in the pool.

Besides practicing good hygiene, be aware of the conditions of your local swimming hole. If conditions are favorable for the spread of disease, there will often be a notice posted. At a public or private pool, talk to the staff to get an idea of their hygienic practices, and whether they have a history of outbreaks. Taking the time to ensure your family's health before diving in will help you enjoy aquatic fun all summer long.

For more on recreational water illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Swimming homepage.



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