It is a favorite summertime activity for all ages. In fact, swimming or relaxing in recreational water, such as swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, or the ocean is one of the most popular activities in the country. However, swimmers can become affected by recreational water illnesses.
What Causes Recreational Water Illnesses?
In swimming pools, germs, such as
hot tub rash, Legionella, swimmer's ear,
and indoor air irritants,
are the most common causes of recreational water illnesses. These germs enter the water primarily through fecal contamination. Exposure to these contaminants usually manifests as diarrhea. However, contaminated water may also cause skin rashes, ear infections, or respiratory infections.
And while it is true that chlorine does kill these germs, insufficient maintenance of chlorine levels and filtering systems may impact the effectiveness of chlorination. In addition, chlorine takes time to work, even in the most stringently maintained swimming facilities. Cryptosporidium, which is highly resistant to chlorine, may continue to live for several days after a pool has been disinfected.
In lakes, rivers, and oceans, pollution by raw sewage is the largest culprit for water contamination with disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and worms. And of course, open water is not chlorinated. This means that your best defense is a good offense, and you should check with your local pollution control authorities regarding water quality at your favorite beach before you go. You can also check the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) beach watch website at
Swimming Pools, Water Parks, and Hot Tubs
In addition to fecal contamination, swimming pools, hot tubs, and water parks may also be contaminated by vomit or blood in the water. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes guidelines for the maintenance and care of these facilities and recommends procedures to deal with any of the above mentioned types of contamination.
If your favorite spot to relax happens to be a swimming pool, water park, or hot tub, check with the pool’s management and staff to make sure they are aware of these recommendations and have a clear plan for responding to any type of water contamination.