Recreational water illnesses are on the rise. According to the CDC, from 2004 to 2010 a 200% increase in illnesses associated with germs found in swimming pools has been reported. The most common germ found in swimming pools is Cryptosporidium, called Crypto for short. Crypto can be found in well-maintained pools with adequate chlorine levels. E. coli, norovirus, shigella and giardia germs are also found in some pools.
Dangers of Recreational Water Illness
Recreational water illnesses, especially Crypto, can cause gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea. Other illnesses associated with swimming pool germs include infections of the skin, eyes, ears and existing wounds.
Ocean Waters are Not Necessarily Safer
Warm coastal waters are the perfect breeding ground for vibrio vulnificus bacteria. The bacteria can cause infections and death, in people with compromised immune systems. Pregnancy can cause lowered immune system response. Many beach towns regularly test waters for bacteria level and release warnings when levels are dangerous. Contact the town office for information on last known water testing and any warnings about water-borne bacteria.
Tips for Preventing Recreational Water Illness
Swimming can be a healthy exercise choice for pregnant women. It is important to reduce the risk of recreational water illnesses for all swimmers, especially pregnant women, children and the elderly. Before swimmers enter the pool, ask them to shower with soap to remove any germs or bacteria from the body. Make a rinse shower available for swimmers to use after leaving the water or before reentry. Ask all guests to wash their hands with soap and water after bathroom breaks.
Children pose an especially high risk to pool waters. Check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes. Take children for bathroom breaks every 60 minutes to prevent pollution of pool waters with urine or fecal matter. Adults should also take regular bathroom breaks, because accidents can happen.
Before entering a public or private pool, use pool testing strips to measure pH and chlorine levels. Chlorine levels should measure between one and three ppm and pH should fall between 7.2 and 7.8. It is perfectly fine to dip a testing strip into a public pool before swimming. If levels are outside of normal range, talk with the pool supervisor or choose to swim at a different pool.
Recreational water illness affects more than 10,000 people each year, based on 2008 reports published by the CDC. Hand washing, regular bathroom breaks and showering before entering the pool are simple ways to prevent recreational water illnesses in a private pool setting. In public settings, testing chlorine and pH levels may be the only way to prevent contracting recreational water illnesses during pregnancy.