Swim safe: protect yourself, your family, and your friends from germs in the water

May 23, 2023
IDHW Communications

Pools, waterparks, hot tubs, splash pads, and spray parks are great places to have fun in the summer, but you can get sick if germs contaminate the water. People who get into the water can carry and spread germs.

Follow these four easy steps to help keep germs out of the water and stay healthy.

  1. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  2. Shower before you get in the water.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  4. Don’t swallow water.

Why is this important?

If you get into the water when you have diarrhea, you could make others sick. Most outbreaks linked to the water we swim, relax, and play in are outbreaks of diarrhea. These outbreaks are caused by germs like Cryptosporidium (or “Crypto” for short), norovirus, and E. Coli.

These germs—sometimes millions at a time—can spread when someone who is sick has diarrhea in the water. Other people can get sick if they swallow the germy water—even just a mouthful.

Even when it’s treated properly with chemicals, the water can still have germs.

Pool chemicals like chlorine and bromine are added to the water to kill germs. But they don’t work right away. If used properly, they can kill most germs within a few minutes. However, some germs like Crypto, can live in properly treated pool water for several days.

Let the chemicals use their power on germs—not on your pee, poop, sweat, and dirt.

The job of pool chemicals is to kill germs. But when pee, poop, sweat, and dirt rinse off our bodies and into the pool water, the chemicals break down these other things instead of killing germs. This uses up the chemicals’ power, which means there’s less to kill germs. That’s why it’s important to follow the four steps above.

For more tips about healthy and safe swimming, visit the CDC's website: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/steps-healthy-swimmi…

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.

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