About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.
Memorial Day Weekend unofficially indicates the beginning of the summer season in the US Mainland. With this new season, many Americans resume another summer ritual—the trek to the neighborhood pool. Whether it’s at the end of a long work day or during the weekend, many eager children successfully drag their parents for some playtime at the pool. Don’t get me wrong. I love the summer! I enjoy warm sandy beaches and swimming in the pool. However, I don’t know if getting older has made me wiser or wary, but sometimes I think twice when going to the pool, especially kiddy pools, where there are too many diaper-clad children.
In researching the subject of this blog, I confirmed my suspicions. Across the United States, there has been an increase in the number of Recreational Water Illness (RWI) outbreaks during the past twenty years associated with swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, and other bodies of water. You would think that the antimicrobials and chlorine used to treat pool water would be enough to keep the pools safe from some waterborne germs and bacteria such as Crypto (short for cryptosporidium) and E coli, to name a few.
The fact is you need much more than chemicals to purify the water. A good dose of common sense is essential. Here are some basic guidelines for healthy swimming: First of all—do not swim when you have diarrhea. Don’t let your children swim either if they have diarrhea since swimming will only help spread germs in the water and make others sick. Secondly, avoid swallowing pool water. This is sometimes easier said than done with little kids, but you have to teach them at an early age. Good hygiene practices are essential in and outside the pool. Take a shower before swimming. Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Take your kids on bathroom breaks or diaper checks often even if they don’t mention the need to relieve themselves. By the time you hear “Mommy, I have to go”, it might be too late. Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area. Please don’t change them at poolside. Above all, please wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Sounds simple, right? It’s common sense. With some simple steps, you can protect yourself, your family and friends. Oh, by the way, before you head to the pool or beach, don’t forget to put on the sunscreen! Enjoy the summer!