What lurks deep within
Parasites found in pools could make you and your child sick.
Juice Staff Published: 7/17/2019
The temperatures are scorching and the sun is beaming down bright. There’s no better way to cool down than taking a dip in a sparkling pool.
But you should be cautious, especially in community pools. That’s because what’s lurking in the water that you don’t see could make you or your child sick.
An increase in a fecal parasite commonly found in community pools is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cryptosporidium, also known as crypto, is the main cause of outbreaks of diarrhea linked to water. One diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of diarrhea-causing germs like crypto, E. coli, norovirus and others.
From 2009 to 2017, there were 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks, resulting in 7,465 cases reported by 40 states and Puerto Rico, according to the CDC. The number of reported outbreaks has increased an average of about 13% per year, with swallowing contaminated water in pools or water playgrounds as one of the main causes.
Chlorine is not as effective at killing the cryptovirus, allowing it to easily spread to others. That’s why people need to be diligent especially when using community pools, said Mark Bedard, DO, a pediatrician with Baptist Primary Care/Orange Park Pediatrics. Crypto is reported to be able to survive in properly chlorinated water for more than seven days.
“It’s harder to treat and eliminate from a pool and can spread rapidly through a community,” Dr. Bedard said. “If you don’t have a good immune system, you can really get sick.”
What prevention steps can you or your child take?
- Avoid swallowing or getting water in your mouth.
- Rinse off before going into the pool.
- Shower with soap and water when getting out of the pool either on-site or when you get home.
- Keep out of the water if you have diarrhea or vomiting symptoms.
- If diarrhea or a bowel movement occurs while in the water, notify pool authorities.
- Put infants in special swim diapers, which minimize leakage.
- Take children on bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
- Change diapers in a bathroom, not at the pool.
“It takes a community effort to try to eliminate these types of issues so it’s important to notify the proper people who can clean the pool and take the appropriate precautions,” Dr. Bedard said. “You have to look out for everyone, not just yourself.”
Symptoms if you do get sick may include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Profuse diarrhea
While a regular stomach bug may last a couple of days, crypto symptoms are more severe. Depending on the symptoms and how long they last, medication may be prescribed by a physician.
People should also be cautious of hot tubs, which are harder to keep clean because chlorine doesn’t last as long, Dr. Bedard said.
“People are sitting in a small heated space that can get pretty dirty,” he said.
Children under 12 should avoid hot tubs altogether.
Other precaution when in the heat, include:
- Stay hydrated, drinking eight cups of water a day. If you are sweating, try a sports drink that replaces lost electrolytes.
- Apply at least 30 SPF sunscreen every 30 minutes or at least hourly based on skin tone.
- Use earplugs and over-the-counter swimmer’s ear drops when getting out of the pool, which helps pull water out of the ear to prevent infection.
- Avoid lakes and ponds if you have a cut.
“We want children to be outside, swimming and having fun. It’s great exercise,” Dr. Bedard said. “You just need to make sure they are taking precautions such as staying hydrated and applying sunscreen.”
To read more on keeping your child safe throughout the year, visit Safe Kids Northeast Florida.