There are lots of scary sounding germs in pools
Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, E. coli O157:H7… YIKES! Contrary to popular belief, chlorine does not kill all germs instantly. There are germs today that are very tolerant to chlorine and were not known to cause human disease until recently. Once these germs get in the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make your child sick with RWIs, recreational water illnesses.
RWIs, 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, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.
RWIs include a wide variety of infections, such as gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Cryptosporidium (Crypto), which can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools, has become the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrheal illness.
The good news is you can prevent RWIs by:
- Encouraging children to keep water out of their mouths.
- Giving your child a pre-swim and posts-swim shower.
- Not letting your child swim with diarrhea.
- Taking your child for restroom breaks every 60 minutes or checking diapers every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Washing hands after getting out of the pool, always before eating and always after using the bathroom.
If you have a pool check chlorine and pH levels
Although Crypto is tolerant to chlorine, most germs are not. Keeping chlorine at recommended levels is essential to maintain a healthy pool.
- Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
- Pools: Proper free chlorine level (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
- Hot tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2–4 parts per million or ppm] or bromine [4–6 ppm] and pH [7.2–7.8]) maximize germ-killing power.
- Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.
General Water Safety Tips
Take time to practice pool safety. No matter how safe you feel your child is around a body of water, adding as many proven safety steps as possible is the best system because you can never know which one might save a child’s life until it does. T
- Stay close, be alert, and watch children in and around all bodies of water
- Never leave children unattended in a body of water
- Teach children basic water safety tips
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments
- Have a telephone close by
- If a child is missing look for them in the body of water first
I know this all sounds a bit scary but if you follow these tips you should have a safe and fun summer in the pool.