While getting wet in Wyoming’s pools and lakes is a fun and healthy activity, swimmers should be careful to avoid catching or spreading recreational water illnesses.
“It is important to prevent germs from getting into pools and lakes. When germs get into the waters where we swim, they can steal our fun by causing diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and shigellosis,” said Katie Bryan, epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much contamination to cause a problem,” Bryan said.
Many germs that get into the water come from feces. “Some of these germs are very tolerant to chlorine and might not be killed right away,” Bryan said. For example, cryptosporidium, the leading cause of pool-related outbreaks, can live in chlorinated water for more than 10 days. These germs are also common in untreated water such as hot springs, lakes, rivers and streams.
Disease symptoms can occur days to weeks after exposure and include active diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea and loss of appetite.
Simple steps swimmers can take to help protect themselves and others include:
• Avoid swimming on days when you are experiencing diarrhea. Germs can spread into the water and make others sick.
• Don’t swallow swimming water and avoid getting water into your mouth.
• Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on the body can end up in the water.
• Parents of young children should remember to:
o Wash children before swimming (especially their rear ends).
o Check diapers every 30–60 minutes. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not right by a pool or lake. Germs can spread in and around the places we swim.
o Take children to the bathroom every 30–60 minutes. Waiting to hear “I have to go,” may mean it’s too late.
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/.