As East Tennesseans begin to head back into the water for the summer swimming season, the Tennessee Department of Health suggests they be aware of some of the dangers of swimming in infected lakes, streams and pools.
Anytime people, water and germs get together, there’s a potential for a Recreational Water Illness, or RWI's. RWI’s can appear in a variety of forms, from a simple skin rash to e-coli poisoning. In 2010, 14 Tennesseans swimming in the same community pool were infected with e-coli bacteria. The most common RWI is diarrhea, but Tennessee State Epidemiologist Tim Jones tells WUOT News diarrhea is also a common way to spread an RWI.
“The most important thing,” Jones says, “is don’t swim when you have diarrhea because that’s the way these germs get into the water and spread to other people.”
Other tips for avoiding RWI’s include:
*Use the proper chemicals in the right amounts to keep swimming pools clean
*Avoid swimming in a lake or stream if livestock are nearby
*Shower with soap before and after you get into the water
*Take small children out of the water frequently for bathroom breaks
*Never change a child’s diaper near water where people are swimming
*Never swallow the water you’re swimming in
Urinating in the water isn’t as harmful as you might suspect. Jones says urine is generally sterile and doesn’t cause RWI’s. “People might not want to hear that, but even though it’s gross, it generally does not make people sick. I wouldn’t recommend doing it, but it’s not going to give someone diarrhea or any other infectious diseases.”