Follow Simple Steps to Enjoy Safe Swimming

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 09:12am

National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week is May 24-30, 2010

NASHVILLE – Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of swimming season, and is the traditional opening day of many public pools in Tennessee and across the country. While swimming offers numerous health benefits, recreational water can also transmit pathogens that cause illness. The Tennessee Department of Health joins in the sixth annual observance of National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week May 24-30 to help make sure residents and visitors have a safe and healthy swimming season.

“We want to remind everyone that there are simple steps they can take to reduce risks to health and safety in the pool or at the lake,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “These precautions also help protect others from illnesses that can be spread in water. We also continue to remind Tennesseans to stay out of rivers and streams impacted by flooding earlier this month while sampling is underway to determine bacteria levels.”

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs that are spread by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds or oceans. Germs on and in swimmers’ bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick. RWIs cause several types of symptoms, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Even healthy swimmers can get sick from RWIs, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)
“The best way to prevent RWIs is to keep germs out of the pool in the first place,” said Rand Carpenter, DVM, a TDOH epidemiologist involved in waterborne disease surveillance. “Everyone can help create healthy swimming experiences this summer by following these five healthy swimming steps.”

Don’t swim if you have diarrhea.
Don’t swallow water from pools, lakes, rivers or other bodies of water.
Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
Take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area, not at poolside.

Illnesses and outbreaks associated with recreational water vary from year to year. In 2009, there were no outbreaks caused by recreational water reported in Tennessee. Nationwide, illness caused by cryptosporidium and other waterborne pathogens has been on the rise. Any illness or outbreak that is possibly caused by exposure to recreational water should be reported to your local health department.

Pool chemical injuries
Pool chemicals make the water where we swim safer by protecting us from germs. However, these same chemicals can also cause injuries if they are not properly handled. This type of preventable injury leads to thousands of emergency room visits each year. Public pool operators and residential pool owners can protect themselves and swimmers by taking these key steps:

Store pool chemicals securely. Keep children and animals away.
Read product name and manufacturer’s directions before each use.
Use appropriate protective gear, such as safety glasses and gloves, when handling pool chemicals.
Do not mix chlorine products with each other, acid or other substances.

For more information about healthy swimming, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming Web site at, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s beaches Web site

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