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Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy.

For Release: May 22, 2017 – Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications (405) 271-5601

With Memorial Day and summer right around the corner, many Oklahomans will be enjoying activities in and around the pool. However, many may not be aware there are billions of germs floating in the water of community pools, splash pads and other water venues. Pool chemicals kill most germs within minutes, but some live for days, especially in untreated water sources. The average swimmer introduces a number of dirty items into recreational water including hair, spit, feces, urine, sweat, and skin products such as lotions, cosmetics and soaps. The germs in the water can lead to illness in both adults and children.

The week before Memorial Day (May 22-29) has been designated as National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. During 2011-2012, there were 90 outbreaks across the United States linked to swimming. For these reasons, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages everyone to follow healthy swimming behaviors to prevent spreading germs and illness.

Healthy swimming behaviors can prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) caused by organisms such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli. RWIs can occur after swallowing or having contact with germs in contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, fountains, lakes or rivers. These illnesses can also be caused by inhaling mists or aerosols from contaminated water. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, skin rash and wound infections. RWIs can be prevented by taking simple precautions.

Healthy swimming behaviors include the following:

  1. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea. Germs can spread in the water and make other people sick.
  2. Shower before getting in the water.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  4. Don’t swallow the water. Avoid getting water in your mouth to prevent swallowing germs.
  5. Every hour – everyone out.
    • Take kids on bathroom breaks.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after changing diapers and using the toilet.
  6. Diapered children
    • Children who are not yet toilet-trained should wear swim diapers in the pool and lake.
    • Swim diapers and swim pants are not a substitute for frequent diaper changing and bathroom breaks. Check swim diapers and swim pants frequently, and change them away from the poolside.
    • Wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before swimming, especially the diapered area.
  7. Pool operators: check the free chlorine level and pH often.
    • Pools: Proper free chlorine level (1-3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm] and pH (7.2-7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power.
    • Hot tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2-4 parts per million] or bromine [4-6 ppm] and pH (7.2-7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
    • Swimming in a well-maintained swimming pool will reduce your likelihood of developing an illness as many of the germs are killed by chlorine.
    • Avoid swimming in a pool with cloudy or off-colored water. If you cannot see the main bottom drain, stay out of the pool.

Harmful algal blooms are often present in Oklahoma lakes. These blooms can produce toxins resulting in illness in humans and animals. Direct contact with water containing the blooms can result in a skin rash; eye, ear and throat irritation; asthma-like symptoms; and diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal cramps. It is important not to swim or participate in other recreational water activities where murkiness or mats due to blue, bright green, red, or brown algae appear in or on the water, or if the water has an unpleasant odor.

For more information regarding waterborne diseases and prevention, please visit: https://go.usa.gov/xN8Dn

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