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Healthy Swimming Year-Round

Mother and son enjoying swimming pool Stay healthy and avoid recreational water illnesses (RWIs) when you swim in pools, water playgrounds, or other treated water venues, or use the hot tub/spa, by following a few simple steps.

Even though it is frequently associated with summer, swimming is a physical activity many people enjoy all year long. Indoor pools, hot tubs/spas, and even outdoor pools in warm climates are popular year round.

Swimming is a fun activity for people of all ages and offers many health benefits; however, recreational water (water in pools and hot tubs/spas) can also spread germs that cause recreational water illnesses (RWIs). The germs that cause RWIs are spread by swallowing, breathing in the mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spa, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that vaporize from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.

Stay Healthy in the Water

The best way to prevent RWIs in pools and other treated water venues is to follow the steps of healthy swimming. Following these steps each time you swim will help you protect yourself and your family and friends from germs, injuries, and drowning.

1. Check the water!

Properly treated recreational water is less likely to spread germs. Drowning can be prevented by trained lifeguards and adequate safety equipment. Before you swim, do your own inspection using a simple 4-step checklist.

2. Check yourself! Keep the pee, poop, sweat, blood, and dirt out of the water.

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Stay out of the water if you have an open wound (for example, from surgery or a piercing) that is not covered with a waterproof bandage.
  • Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just 1 minute removes most of the dirt or anything else on your body.

3. Protect yourself and others!

  • Protect against sunburn by using a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use well-fitting Coast Guard approved life jackets for flotation assistance rather than foam or air-filled toys.

4. Stay healthy and safe once in the water.

  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Keep an eye on children at all times, kids can drown in seconds and in silence.

5. Every hour—everyone out!

  • Take kids on bathroom breaks.
  • Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–not waterside–to keep germs away from the water.
  • Reapply sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Dry ears thoroughly with a towel after swimming.

**Remember that swim diapers and swim pants are not a replacement for frequent diaper changing and regular trips to the bathroom. Swim diapers and swim pants are not designed to keep diarrhea (the most serious water contaminant) from leaking into the water. Parents should never allow their children to enter the water when they are ill with diarrhea, even if they are wearing swim diapers or swim pants.

Stay Healthy in the Hot Tub/Spa

The germs that cause RWIs can also be spread in hot tubs/spas. To stay healthy while soaking in the hot tub/spa, follow these HOT steps!

Heed… rules for safe and healthy use.

  • Exclude children less than 5 years of age from using hot tubs/spas.
  • If pregnant, consult a healthcare provider before using hot tubs/spas, particularly in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Observe… the hot tub/spa and its surroundings.

  • Water temperature should not exceed 104°F (40°C).
  • Check the water; CDC recommends maintaining free chlorine at least 3 parts per million [ppm] or bromine at 4–6 ppm, and pH at 7.2–7.8. Pool and hot tub/spa test strips are available at local home improvement stores, discount retailers, and pool–supply stores. If you want to practice using them at home, check out our Pool & Spa (Hot Tub) Test Strips Home Test Instructions.

Talk…to hot tub/spa owners/staff and other users.

  • Are chlorine or bromine levels and pH checked at least 2 times per day?
  • Are they checked during times when the hot tub/spa is most heavily used?
  • Talk to owners/staff and users about RWIs and share the above tips with them.

For more in-depth information on healthy swimming, go to the Healthy Swimming website.

Remember, healthy swimming is no accident. Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy.