Healthy and Safe Swimming Week focuses on simple steps swimmers, parents of young swimmers, pool operators, and beach managers can take to help ensure healthy and safe swimming experiences for everyone. It highlights the role that swimmers, parents of young swimmers, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials play in preventing outbreaks of illnesses, drowning, and pool chemical injuries. Healthy and Safe Swimming Week promotes swimmer hygiene and the need for swimmers to take an active role in helping to protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs. These messages are reinforced by health promotion materials to educate the public about healthy swimming.

Swimming and Recreational Water Illnesses

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water playgrounds (or interactive fountains), lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals. Diarrhea is the most common RWI, and it is often caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, norovirus, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7. Reports of outbreaks associated with recreational water show that Crypto is the leading cause of most outbreaks linked to treated recreational water venues (like pools and water playgrounds), but the bacteria, Legionella and Pseudomonas, also cause many outbreaks, especially associated with hot tubs/spas. Crypto is particularly hard to control, because the germ is not easily killed by chlorine. Other RWIs include skin, ear, respiratory, eye, and neurologic infections. Children are most at risk for RWIs.

Staying healthy in the water

The pool, hot/spa, or water playground is the last place someone sick with diarrhea should be. Just one diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of germs. If someone swallows a mouthful of the water, it can cause diarrhea lasting up to 3 weeks. Here are some tips swimmers should take to help protect themselves, their friends, and their family, this summer and year round.

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim when sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Check out the latest inspection score
  • Do your own mini-inspection
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
  • Check diapers every 30–60 minutes and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–not waterside–to keep germs away from the water.
  • Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just 1 minute helps get rid of most stuff that might be on swimmer’s body.