The long sunny days of summer are here. Kids are out of school and families are on vacation. Everyone looks forward to spending more time outdoors and having a safe and healthy summer. However, conditions are just right for certain summertime illnesses, especially (RWI) recreational water illness. RWI occurs when chlorine and pH levels in swimming pools and water parks become unsafe and the pool water is contaminated. Children who may swallow contaminated water are at high risk for RWI.
Recreational Water Illness…RWI
I live in Florida where swimming pools and water parks are year long attractions. There are excellent public and neighborhood pools everywhere where families can swim. Also most families have children, and many families have little kids still in diapers who use these pools.
Florida also has some of the most exciting and amazing water parks in the country. Tourists, especially families, enjoy them. Again, most families have children, and many have kids still in diapers who enjoy being in the water.
Kids in diapers, playing in pool water shared by others can cause RWI. Swimming pool water becomes contaminated when kids or other humans have toilet “accidents,” especially diarrhea. Infectious germs then lie in wait for everyone else in the pool.
As a former daycare worker and a parent/grandparent who has changed hundreds of “poopie” diapers, the very thought of sharing pool water with diapered tots is risky, and something I don’t do. Swim diapers and swim pants are not leak proof.
I also would not allow my 4 year-old grand daughter to swim in certain neighbors’ pools where diapered tots were present. As expected, she was not happy; but since we have our own professionally cleaned pool (and no tots in diapers) plus a ready supply of popsicles and pool toys, the older kids were happy to swim at my house. Convincing the moms with babies not to come was not so easy, but usually they stayed home.
Recreational water illness can result in a wide variety of infections, ranging from stomach upsets and diarrhea, to skin, eye and ear infections and respiratory illness. Some of these illnesses can be serious.
Infections such as Giardia, Shigella, Crypto and E. coli enter the body when contaminated pool water is swallowed or gets into the skin, nose, eyes or ears. Inhaled contaminated water vapor can also make you sick. There has been an increase in RWI outbreaks during the last decade.
Basic safety advice from the CDC to avoid RWI in a public pool
It is important to learn the basics of recreational water illness prevention. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers this information:
* Everyone should wash and shower before entering the pool.
*There is no guarantee, that swim diapers and swim pants keep fecal matter in. They are not leak-proof.
* Parents should keep children with diarrhea out of the pool.
* Parents should make frequent changing trips or trips to the toilet with children, and should wash and dry the child’s diaper area carefully.
* Teach children not to swallow pool water.
* Stay out of the water if you have a skin rash or cut. Avoid getting water in your eyes and ears..
Those at serious or deadly risk from RWI
Some people more than others can get very sick from RWI. They are young babies, pregnant women, individuals with a compromised immune system and those with AIDS.
Check the pool water
If you want to, you can check if pool water is unsafe by bringing your own Watersafe test kit to the pool and checking it yourself. Tell the pool attendant the results and you just might prevent some swimmers from getting recreational water illness.