The summer season is upon us, and for many, that means it’s time to jump in the pool to cool off. While swimming is a great way to exercise and beat the heat in the summer, it carries some risks to be aware of. Aside from immediate dangers like drowning and sun exposure, you should also think about the microscopic risks floating in most bodies of water. Pools, lakes, and oceans can all contain harmful bacteria and parasites that might make you sick to your stomach. Fortunately, a little awareness can go a long way, so be sure that you follow these tips when you go swimming, whether you’re at home, on vacation, or at the local beach.
Avoid drinking the pool water
You might be tempted to let your guard down at the swimming pool when it comes to staying on alert for contaminated water, because most pools are treated with chlorine and other chemicals to clean the water. However, one of the biggest threats to your health lurking in the water is a parasite that can survive up to 10 days in the water—even when it’s been treated with chlorine. This parasite, called Cryptosporidosis, and more commonly referred to as Crypto, is on the rise. In the United States, infections caused by Crypto have doubled over the past few years, largely due to drinking pool water while swimming.
Crypto can cause symptoms within 10 days of contact with the parasite, and in healthy individuals, symptoms can persist for several weeks. Often, infected individuals will have severe stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea, fever, and weight loss, which may come and go in cycles until the illness ends.
To avoid accidentally swallowing pool water and raising your risk for a Crypto infection, you might practice blowing bubbles with a controlled stream of air as you swim to gently force water away from your mouth. Discourage kids from excessive splashing in the pool, and teach them to swim with greater control of their breathing to avoid mouthfuls of potentially contaminated water.
Shower before and after swimming in any body of water
Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee that all swimmers will wash off before entering the pool, so you’ll want to make a habit of showering after you get out of the water. You should also set an example by rinsing before getting into the pool to maintain a cleaner environment in the water. In addition to reducing the spread of disease, showering can also minimize possible skin irritation from chlorine exposure
Be mindful of natural water sources
Natural bodies of water carry their own risks, because they are a breeding ground for bacteria, insects, and other pathogens and pests. On particularly warm days, water temperatures may spark an influx of bacterial activity, so be especially careful on these occasions.
If you begin to feel sick after you go swimming this summer, head to MeMD for an online medical consultation. Our doctors can help you stay hydrated and comfortable when you begin to experience diarrhea and other telltale signs of infection.