Recreational Water Illness

Many of our favorite summertime activities – swimming, hiking, camping – allow us to spend more time on and around the water than we do at other times of the year. Whether natural or manmade, water sources can contain disease-causing germs. These diseases are known as Recreational Water Illnesses, or RWIs. RWIs are caused by swallowing, breathing in, or touching contaminated water. The most common RWIs are those that cause diarrhea; however, contaminated water can also cause skin, ear, respiratory, and eye infections. Read more about RWIs here, or download our printable fact sheet.

Even though there may be germs, don’t give up going to the pool or spending time on the lake or river completely. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Swimming – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, contrary to popular belief, chlorine does not kill all germs instantly. Some germs are very tolerant of chlorine – it can take minutes or even days for chlorine to kill them. If it contains these germs, swallowing even just a little water can make you sick. Take the following steps to reduce the likelihood that you will become ill.

  • Don’t swallow the water you swim in
  • Don’t swim if have, or have recently had, diarrhea
  • Shower before swimming
  • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes
  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30-60 minutes
  • Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area, not poolside
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers

You may also decide to test pool water yourself with test strips. Click here to learn about ordering and receiving free test strips.

CCHD’s Environmental Health Sanitarians regularly conduct inspections of all local pools to ensure that they are safe for people to swim in. Visit the Environmental Health section of CCHD’s website for more information on pool compliance and safety.

Outdoor Recreation – Swimming is not the only way you can contract RWIs. If you are out hiking, camping, or fishing, be sure to disinfect any lake, river, or stream water before drinking it. Click here to learn more about having safe drinking water during camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

Learn More!Visit the CDC’s Healthy Swimming/Recreational Water section to learn even more about swimming, RWIs, prevention, and all other things summer and water related!

One Comment on “Recreational Water Illness

  1. Very nice article and very informative! Thank you for helping our community to understand what CCHD does for them!