Kids love to spend the summer at the local pool, lake or beach but it's possible they could end up with more than just a tan. Recreational water use can lead to illnesses, says a Baylor College of Medicine pediatric infectious disease expert.
"Spending time in the water should be fun for families, not something that makes them sick," said Dr. Gordon Schutze, professor of pediatrics at BCM. "By following a few basic precautions, kids and parents may be able to prevent water-borne illnesses."
The most common water-borne illness is gastroenteritis, which can result in diarrhea, Schutze said. Outbreaks of diarrhea are most commonly caused by cryptosporidium, a protozoa bacteria associated with pools and water parks. This organism can survive because it is resistant to the chlorine levels used for these venues. Skin infections and respiratory illnesses can also be caused by water-borne organisms.
Prevent water-borne illnesses
Schutze offers the following pool hygiene tips to help prevent illnesses:
- Shower, using soap and water, before swimming. Wash the perianal area thoroughly.
- Take advantage of adult swim time to take young children to the bathroom. Check and change diapers frequently.
- Wash hands with soap and water after toilet use and diaper-changing activities. These should occur at a distance from the recreational water source.
- Infants and children who are not toilet trained should use proper fitting swim diapers
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after consumption of food and drink. Keep food and drink away from the pool.
Avoid bacteria contaminates
Splash pads are another popular place for youngsters. Schutze said that children in diapers should not be allowed to sit down in the splash pad. These play areas have a water reservoir underneath that recycles water, so if a child has diarrhea due to an infectious agent, it can come back through the water spray to potentially contaminate others.
At lakes, avoid stagnant water and areas where there is raw sewage, fertilizer or animal feces run off. At beaches, look for posted signs that warn of bacteria contamination and do not use the beach if there has been any contamination.
Schutze recommended check www.epa.gov/beaches/ for the latest health information about the nation's beaches.