Mayo Clinic Expert Discusses Safe Swimming Practices to Reduce Water-Related Illnesses

Mayo Clinic pediatric experts warn that many swimmers may not be aware of the water illnesses associated with pools due to the germs that can linger.

A swimming pool is basically a community bathtub without the shampoo, says Thomas Boyce, MD, pediatric infectious diseases specialist, Mayo Clinic Childrens Center. Children can still get sick in a properly chlorinated pool. Chlorine does not kill germs instantly and, in fact, does not kill cryptosporidium at all, which is a common germ that causes water-associated gastrointestinal illness.

Recreational water illness outbreaks peak in summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 21.6 percent of Americans dont know that swimming while they have diarrhea puts other swimmers at risk for water-associated illnesses. To help keep germs from entering the water, Boyce advises parents to take young children on bathroom breaks often; change their diapers in the bathroom, not poolside; and wash a toddlers bottom with soap and water before entering the water.

Swimming is a great way for kids to cool off and get exercise in the summer, however, Boyce cautions that children who swallow water while they swim can be at risk for diarrhea, viral meningitis and other illnesses. Parents can keep children safe by having their children rinse off before entering the pool, not allowing children with diarrhea to swim and teaching children not to swallow the pool water that they swim in, he says.