Make a splash! Swim safely this summer
Warmer weather is here which means it is time to bring out the sun block, wide brim hats and swim-suits and get out to the pool or water park! Just as you should protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, there are also things you can do to protect yourself from water in pools or water parks which cause recreational water illness (RWI).
There a few simple precautions that will help keep you and your family safe from RWI. Follow these four simple tips to keep the summer fun rolling:
- Avoid swimmers ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the external ear that takes place when bacteria from the water gets past the natural barriers of the skin of the ear. Use a towel and tilt your head to allow water to completely drain from the ear. After swimming, a blow dryer on the lowest heat setting can be used to dry the ears as well. In addition, alcohol-based ear drops are available over the counter and can help keep ears from getting infected. You can even make your own from a 1-to-1 mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Just use the drops in the morning and evening on swimming days.
- Don’t drink pool water. Be sure to keep your loved ones from drinking any pool water. Cryptosporidium, a parasite, is the leading cause for RWI and can stay alive in even well maintained pools for more than seven days. RWI causes a stomach illness that can make you very sick, so try to avoid swallowing any pool water.
- Shower before you swim. Everyone should practice good hygiene before swimming. This means good hand hygiene after using the restroom and having a shower with soap before swimming. The little ones should also be cleaned with soap before venturing to the pool.
- Don’t swim with open wounds. Our skin is the body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria. Swimming with an open sore or cut can put you at risk for getting a serious infection, or illness from bacteria in the water. Some of this risk can be reduced by wearing a completely watertight bandage over the wound, but the best policy is probably to forgo swimming until the wound has healed.
Swimming is a fun and healthy summer activity for the whole family. It helps keep everybody active and creates great bonding experiences. Following the above tips will help you and your family steer clear of some of the common health problems that can come out of recreational water use.
By: Dr. Thomas V. Giguiere, Sentara Family Medicine Physicians