June 26, 2014
State health officials offer six simple steps to make summer swimming safe
A few basic precautions can help keep families healthy and happy at the pool and beach
Despite the rain and flooding that has affected much of the state, the Fourth of July holiday is expected to once again be a busy time for Minnesota’s beaches and pools. State health officials are taking the opportunity to remind Minnesotans that we all have a role to play when it comes to keeping swimming healthy and fun.
The best way to prevent recreational water illnesses is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. Swimmers can protect themselves and others by following these six tips:
- Don’t swallow pool or lake water.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
- Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
- Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside.
“Chlorinated water is not a guarantee against being exposed to germs in the water,” said Trisha Robinson, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist specializing in waterborne diseases. “Between 2004 and 2013, there were 44 recreational waterborne outbreaks in Minnesota, resulting in nearly 700 illnesses. Seventy-five percent of the outbreaks occurred in treated waters. The best protective measure is for everyone to do their part to keep the germs out.”
Almost half of the waterborne outbreaks in the past 10 years were caused by Cryptosporidium, one of the most common waterborne disease agents. It is a chlorine-resistant parasite that can survive and be transmitted even in a properly maintained pool or splash pad.
The most common symptom of recreational water illness is diarrhea, which in some cases can be severe enough to result in hospitalization. Symptoms may not develop until a week or more after swimming.
“Swimming is good exercise, a lifelong activity and a great way to enjoy Minnesota summers,” Robinson said. “We want people to keep swimming. The best way to do that is to keep the water healthy for everyone.”
For more information about healthy swimming, visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s Waterborne Illness Web page at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/dtopics/waterborne/index.html or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming Web page at http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/.
To report a suspected waterborne illness, call the Minnesota Department of Health’s Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-FOODILL (or 651-201-5655 from the Twin Cities).