Recreational Water Illnesses

By ThinkReliability Staff

Last year we wrote a blog about preventing pool injuries, specifically slipping and drowning.  However, there’s a lesser known risk from a pool – getting sick from swimming.  This is officially known as “recreational water illness” or RWI, and normally involves diarrhea. RWI is estimated to affect approximately 1,000 people a year (according to WebMD) and can cause death, especially in immune-compromised people.

We can perform a proactive root cause analysis to determine what causes these illnesses.  Essentially, a person consumes germs by ingesting pool water that contains germs.  Pool water becomes contaminated when germs enter the pool from fecal matter.  (Easier said than done. Did you know that the average person is wearing 0.14 grams of fecal matter?)  So please, keep fecal matter out of the pool.  Take a shower before you get in and make sure your kids are using the bathroom regularly elsewhere.  (Not surprisingly, kiddie pools are the ‘germiest’.)

Now, pools are treated to prevent these germs from proliferating.  However, some combinations of pool chemicals and germs take much too long to work to be effective.  (For example, cryptosporidium takes 7 days to be killed in chlorine.)  Some pools aren’t getting enough chemicals due to inadequate maintenance.  And, there’s some stuff you can put in the pool – namely urine, sunscreen, and sweat – that interacts with chlorine and reduces the effective volume in the pool. So, even though urine itself doesn’t contain germs, don’t pee in the pool.  And again, take a shower.

Our solutions to RWI – take a shower, don’t perform any bodily functions in the pool, and don’t swallow the pool water.  However, that works for you and your family, but what about the unwashed masses in the pool?  The CDC recommends you buy your own water testing kit and test the pool water before you get in.  Make sure there’s a pool treatment plan and that it’s being followed, and that all ‘accidents’ are reported immediately.  (Yep, even if   they’re your fault.)  Then lay back, relax, and enjoy your swim.