Recreational Water Illnesses

According to the Kansas Department of Health, “the use of recreational water is growing. In the United States, an estimated 360 million visits to recreational water venues such as pools, spas and water parks are made annually. In Kansas, swimming is the second most popular exercise activity, and the use of swimming pools and whirlpool spas contribute to overall fitness and health”. 

We often believe that swimming pools and spas are uncontaminated due to the chlorine in the water. However, it is important to be aware of their potential to spread disease and illness.Most of these fall under the term Recreational Water Illness (RWI). They can be spread by swallowing, inhaling, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. The most common form of illness is gastrointestinal. However ear, eye, neurologic, and dermatologic problems can also occur. 

So how do we protect ourselves and our children from these diseases?

Recreational water is shared by many people, and as such, we need to actively engage in protecting ourselves and teach our children to do the same. 

Before getting in a public pool or spa, always be sure to check the pool. A pool that is well maintained is less likely to spread germs and disease. Some things you might look for include:

  • The latest inspection results.
  • Checking the drain to be sure it is visible and working.
  • If you are concerned about the chemicals, you can use pool test strips to ensure the pH and chemical balance is correct.
  • Make sure no chemicals are out in the open.

During your swim time, be sure to check on your children often. Keep pee, poop, sweat, blood, and dirt out of the water. Take frequent bathroom breaks. 

Do not let your children swim if they are experiencing diarrhea. Anyone with an open wound should not get into the water either. 

Teach your children to shower before entering the water. A one minute shower can remove most of the dirt from their body so they aren’t sharing bacteria with others.

 Be aware and be respectful. If everyone strives to do their part, we can keep our recreational water activities safe for the world around us.