Swimming-related illnesses are diseases that people can get from the water in which they swim and play—like swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, splash pads, or oceans, lakes, and rivers—if the water is contaminated with germs. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, skin rashes, ear pain, cough or congestion, and eye pain. You can get swimming-related illnesses if you swallow, have contact with, or breathe in mists or aerosols from water contaminated with germs. You can also get them by having contact with chemicals that are in the water or that evaporate from the water and turn into gas in the air.
- The most common swimming-related illness is diarrhea. Swallowing even a tiny bit of water contaminated with germs from poop can cause diarrheal illness.
- Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli.
- People typically have about 0.14 grams of poop on their bodies at any given time. This poop can wash off swimmers’ bodies and contaminate the water with germs.
- Swimming-related illnesses can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water or turn into gas in the air.
We all share the water we swim in, and we each need to do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and our friends healthy. To help protect yourself and other swimmers from germs and other health threats, here are a few simple and effective steps all swimmers can take each time we swim:
- Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
- Don’t swallow the water.
- Don’t pee or poop in the water.
- Shower before you get in the water.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour.
- Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area that is away from the water to keep germs away from getting in.
- Reapply sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids.