By Robert Lucke
The Hill County Health Department states that recreational water illnesses are spread by swimming in contaminated recreational waters such as swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, lakes, creeks and the ocean.
"RWIs are caused by germs like giardia, cryptosporidium, E. coli and shigella and are spread by swallowing water contaminated with fecal matter," registered sanitarian Heidi Bischoff said. "Fecal matter doesn't have to be seen to cause illnesses as these bacteria and germs are invisible to the eye. Keep in mind that pool water is shared by all the swimmers and that pool water is not sterile."
RWIs are easily destroyed by chlorination, but chorine doesn't work immediately. Some germs like cryptosporidium live for days in chlorinated water. Therefore, it is important that you and your kids take measures to help stop germs from entering pools in the first place, Bischoff said.
"Swim diapers and swim pants do not prevent fecal matter from entering the pool. These may hold in some feces, but they are not leak-proof and can still contaminate pool water," she said. "We recommend that parents change their children's swim or diaper pants often and make frequent trips to the bathroom. All diaper changing must occur in the bathroom facilities only, not at poolside."
"If fecal matter is seen in the pool, notify the lifeguard immediately," Bischoff said. "The pool staff will then ask the swimmers to vacate the pool. The fecal matter will be vacuumed up, the pool will be disinfected, and the pool chemical levels tested before swimmers may return to the pool."
The Hill County Health Department recommends six items to better protect families from getting an RWI this summer.
Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
Don't swallow pool water.
Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or after changing diapers.
Take your kids on bathroom breaks often.
Change diapers in the bathroom not at poolside.
Wash your kid's bottom area well with soap and water before swimming.