Staying Safe during Summer Swimming Season

Here in the heart of the summer, staying cool and swimming go hand in hand. Be it at a lake, beach, or simply a neighbor’s pool, there are hidden dangers which could make your weekend in the water not-so-enjoyable, and we aren’t talking sharks here.

Starting in your neighborhood pool or water park, the parasite crypto is a common infection. It is spread through the feces of infected animals, including humans. It takes only 10 crypto parasites to get sick, and a sick person sheds 10 to 100 million per bowel movement. Its tough outer shell makes it resistant to chlorine.

Hot water is not safe either. The average hot tub or Jacuzzi runs about 102 degrees F, not hot enough to kill germs. This temperature breaks apart chlorine, making hot tubs hard to disinfect. A common infection for hot tubbers is pseudomonas, a bacteria that gets into hair follicles. It creates a red, itchy rash, especially in areas covered by your swimsuit. The bacteria can also infect the ear, leading to painful and itchy “swimmer’s ear” that children get. The hot tub is also a common place to get infected with legionella. This affects your airways, leading to Pontiac fever or Legionnaires’ disease. It ranges from fever and muscle aches to coughing and shortness of breath. Most cases subside without treatment.

When venturing to the lake or beach, avoid swallowing water. Shigella bacteria causes 500,000 cases of diarrhea in America each year. Other symptoms include fever and pain. Most shigella strains are treatable with antibiotics. Norovirus can be mistaken for the “stomach flu”, with a bad case of diarrhea and vomiting. It takes only a few microscopic viruses to get sick. There is no vaccine for norovirus.

The blue-green bacteria that line beaches and lakes during the summer carry toxins that are harmful upon contact, leading to skin, eye, and throat irritation of swimmers. Swallowing this can cause headaches and vomiting. There are no treatments for cyanobacteria, but symptoms are manageable.

Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba” lives in warm fresh water. They infect when water goes up the nose, triggering headache, fever, seizures, and coma. Over 97 percent of people infected will die. Fortunately, only three or four people get infected each year.

To prevent these nasty microbes from ruining your family summer vacation, follow these few tips. Don’t swim at the beach right after a rain. If you have a cut, open wound or have had diarrhea in the past two weeks, stay out of the water. The CDC recommends showering before swimming and reapplying sunscreen every hour after using the restroom. Be careful not to swallow water and dry off the ears well. If you own a pool or hot tub, check chlorine and pH levels twice a day, as per CDC guidelines.
Wosen, Jonathan. “Forget sharks: 7 things in the water swimmers should actually fear.” Health. STAT, 21 Jul 2017. Web. 23 Jul 2017.

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