While there are many wonderful health benefits to swimming — including cardiovascular, muscular, respiratory, emotional and joint health — you may not realize that there are also a few potential health-related problems associated with it. A variety of RWIs, or Recreational Water Illnesses, can be caused by germs found in water, improper chemical levels, or a combination of both (see Parts 1, 2 & 3 of our series). The good news for private swimming pool users is that those who use public pools are far more susceptible to exposure to most if not all RWIs.
Where Do RWIs Come From?
Some RWIs are spread through contact with the water itself. These kinds of illnesses can be spread not only through swallowing contaminated water but also through breathing in mist near aquatic facilities. Many people don’t realize that any water source can cause exposure to contaminants; both manmade sources (like swimming pools, water slides, and hot tubs) and natural water sources (like oceans, rivers, and lakes) can cause exposure.
What Are the Most Common RWIs?
While skin infections, respiratory illnesses, and ear infections also make the list of RWIs, the most common category of RWIs is diarrheal illnesses. Caused by various types of germs that can occur in public swimming pools, gastrointestinal illnesses include Shigella, norovirus, Giardia, and E. coli; however, the most common among them is Cryptosporidium, which is often shortened to “Crypto.”
What Causes Crypto?
Caused by a chlorine-resistant parasite, Crypto can survive outside a person’s body for several days, even if the pool is well maintained. Crypto sufferers can experience diarrhea, usually for a period of 2 or 3 weeks; however, the symptoms can last for anywhere between a handful of days to an entire month. While watery diarrhea is the main symptom, other results of exposure to Crypto can include fever and vomiting as well as other symptoms that typically accompany diarrhea and vomiting: nausea, stomach cramps, dehydration, and weight loss.
Some people with healthy immune systems can actually suffer from Crypto but never experience any of those symptoms, while those with weak immune systems can experience severe gastrointestinal and even respiratory symptoms. Most Crypto sufferers recover easily, without the need for medical intervention.
How Can You Prevent Crypto Exposure?
Like most other RWIs, those with their own private swimming pools are at less of a risk for developing Crypto or other gastrointestinal illnesses through exposure to pool water. Since Crypto typically enters the water through feces of individuals already infected with the parasite, limiting the number of people using your pool combined with encouraging proper hygiene in any individuals using your pool will help minimize exposure. In addition to requesting that participants shower before entering your pool, you can reduce the chances of infected feces entering the water by disallowing anyone with diarrhea from using the pool, requiring children to take frequent bathroom breaks, and making sure that any diapers are changed away from the swimming pool area.
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