Special to The Explorer
Your family's health could sink or swim, depending on where you choose to spend the summer.
But a few very basic precautions can greatly reduce your risk of trouble.
"Bacterial infections and water-borne illnesses are real risks for those who enjoy swimming, water-skiing or many other recreational water activities," said Dr. Dennis Maki, professor of medicine and infectious-disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Bacteria, viruses and parasites can all make you sick in "recreational water."
And it's not just natural bodies of water. Maki says pools and hot tubs, as well as rivers and lakes, can be sources for gastrointestinal illnesses; skin, ear and eye infections; and respiratory, neurological and viral problems.
According to Maki, who is also an epidemiologist at UW Hospital and Clinics, the safest places to swim are generally municipal and private pools which are monitored for their chlorine content. But he cautions that even pools can pose risks because some pathogens, such as cryptosporidium, can live for days even in properly chlorinated water.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend safety precautions for prevention of illness related to water recreation:
• Adults and children with diarrhea should not use swimming pools, hot tubs or water parks.
• Shower with soap and tap water before swimming or getting into a hot tub and, again, afterwards.
• Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before re-entering the water.
• Avoid swallowing water.
• Don't swim in warm, stagnant water or use poorly maintained hot tubs or pools.