For many Henry County residents, swimming is a staple of summertime fun, but it also comes with some hidden risks like recreational water illness.
Recreational water illnesses (RWI) occurs when an individual comes in contact with E. coli, norovirus and Shigella as well as many other types of infections through the water. However, Henry County Public Health Director Shelley Van Dorin says there are several ways that parents can protect children and themselves from contracting these illnesses.
“Swimming pools, spas, lakes and rivers are all potential sources for RWIs,” Van Dorin said.
To understand how to avoid catching these illnesses, swimmers must also understand where they can lurk. Dorin cites the physics of water as a way of imaging how these illnesses spread. As thousands of diseases can spread through the air, RWIs can spread diarrhea, for example, widely across an open body of water — so theoretically, an individual could more easily pick up this disease from drinking toilet water.
Van Dorin also divulged what kids should be doing to avoid contracting these RWIs.
“Try not to swallow the pool water and avoid getting it in your mouth,” Van Dorin said.
Van Dorin continued with tips parents can implement to shepherd their children in specific practices to avoid spreading RWIs: don’t allow the child to swim if when they have diarrhea so they don’t spread germs to the water, teach good hygiene — showering with soap before swimming, and wash hands after changing diapers.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RWIs are most likely to cause illness in children, pregnant women, and people who have weaker immune systems. These at-risk individuals who pick up these illnesses have a wide variety of symptoms that they will have to suffer through, such as: ear infections, respiratory infections, rashes and diarrhea, just to name a few.
“The illnesses typically affect the person’s stomach, intestines, skin or respiratory system,” Van Dorin said. “If you think you have an RWI that needs medical attention contact your health care provider.”
Chlorine in pool water is supposed to protect the average swimmer from these types of infections. The problem with trusting this chlorine to do its job immediately, is that the amount of time it takes for chlorine to kill these germs can vary. The CDC alludes to outliers such as Cryptosporidium, which is a germ that can stay in most swimming pools even a couple of days.
“Check diapers — often waiting to hear, ‘I have to go’ might mean it’s too late,” Van Dorin added.