Germ Water: Illinois Poison Control Releases Safety Tips To Avoid Getting Sick From Swimming

Bernie Tafoya
June 28, 2019 - 12:00 pm
Swimming Pool
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- As the temperatures heat up again, there are some reminders out about making sure you don’t get sick by swimming at your local pool.

The Illinois Poison Center, the nation's oldest poison center, released pool safety tips to avoid recreational water illness.

“Anyone who swims in pools, hot tubs, water parks, or any other water contaminated with germs is at risk for a recreational water illness (RWI),” said Michael Wahl, M.D., medical director, Illinois Poison Center (IPC). “Diarrhea is among the most common RWIs, but they can also cause other gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections.”

The IPC said that even if a pool is well-maintained, some germs like cryptosporidium, can live up to 10 days in treated water and can cause diarrhea for weeks after symptoms stop.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swallowing as little as 10 Crypto germs can cause an infection.

But Dr. Michael Wahl said that does not mean you should not go in a pool or hot tub at all. He said prevention is key. 

"Taking a shower before you get into the pool, if you have diarrhea or any of your children have diarrhea, not to get into the pool. Common sense type things. And then, try not to swallow a lot of water when you’re in the pool," he said. 

Other precautions include:

  • Avoid swimming if you have diarrhea;
  • Shower with soap before swimming to help remove germs that could contaminate the water;
  • Do not swallow water;
  • Do not sit on water jets; and
  • While at the pool, take children and infants on bathroom breaks and check for dirty diapers every hour.

The IPC also said that swimmers are not the only ones who need to be conscious about safety this summer.

Dr. Wahl said people who maintain pools should be careful handling chemicals in pool disinfectants, which can be dangerous when used improperly and to not breathe in any of the powder they’re dealing with. 

If pool cleaner is ingested, touches the skin or is inhaled, it can cause a range of medical problems such as organ failure, loss of vision, severe abdominal pain, low blood pressure, or throat swelling.

To avoid these complications: 

  • Always use the correct amount of pool cleaner and other substances;
  • Handle and store pool cleaners as indicated on their packaging; and
  • Unless directed, never mix materials. They can create toxic substances like chlorine gas.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, please call the IPC at 800-222-1222. The call is free and confidential. For more information, visit the IPC’s website: http://illinoispoisoncenter.org.