Recreational Water Illnesses

What Are Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)?
RWIs are the various illnesses caused by germs that can contaminate water in pools, lakes, and the ocean. The most common RWI is diarrhea, caused by germs like Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7.

How Is Diarrhea Spread?

Pool water is shared by every swimmer. A person with diarrhea can easily contaminate the pool with fecal matter. Diarrhea is then spread when swimmers swallow this contaminated pool water.

Does Chlorine Protect Against RWIs?
Yes, germs causing RWIs are killed by chlorine, but it doesn’t work right away. Some germs, like Cryptosporidium, can live in pools for days. Without your help, even the best maintained pools can spread illness.

General Hygiene Guidelines for All Swimmers
  • Please do not swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Please do not swallow the pool water. In fact, avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Please practice good hygiene. Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
Special Guidelines for Parents of Young Kids
  • Please take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean it’s too late.
  • Please change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.
  • Please wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before allowing them to swim to minimize fecal matter being transferred to the pool.