4 Ways to Avoid Sickness from Swimming

On a hot summer day, nothing cools you off faster than a dip in the pool. But, unfortunately, you may be sharing the water with some unwanted germs and parasites. According to a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of outbreaks relating to a parasite called cryptosporidium has increased by about 13% per year. The outbreaks, which lead to symptoms of diarrhea, are often associated with pools and water playgrounds.

The outbreaks sound awful, but there’s no need to throw in the (beach) towel on public pools. Whether you’re getting in a water workout or heading to the waterpark with family, here are four ways you can stay safe while splashing.

1. Make sure the pool is safe.

ProMedica Physician Ryan Szepiela, MD, recommends, “Make sure the pool you are going to is safe and that they are appropriately testing the water.” The CDC recommends asking to see inspection results or using test strips to check the chemical levels of the pool yourself. The CDC also says there should be little or no chemical odor (as this is a sign of lots of germs mixing with chlorine) and you should be able to see the bottom of the pool, even on the deep end.

2. Shower before you get in the water.

A pre-swim shower can remove sweat, dirt and other things on your body that can distract pool chemicals from doing their real job of killing germs. According to the CDC, one minute is all it takes to remove the things that use up pool chemicals.

3. Don’t swallow the water.

This rule is pretty easy for adults, but may be difficult for young swimmers. “I know it’s hard to control this with younger kids, but warn them before they get in not to be drinking or swallowing the water,” says Dr. Szepiela.

4. Stay out of the water if you’ve had diarrhea.

“Studies show that some people wait less than a day to get back into the water if they’ve had a diarrhea illness,” says Dr. Szepiela. “Typically, you should wait at least seven days.” Check with your doctor about returning to normal activities just to be safe.