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Published on July 22, 2014

Summertime Fun, Without the Brain-eating Amoeba

July 22, 2014

smiling little girl swimming in poolLast year, two children in different parts of the country contracted a potentially fatal infection while swimming in warm, fresh water. Although “brain-eating amoebas” made headlines across the nation, such infection is extremely rare. Swimmers should protect themselves from more common waterborne illnesses known to inhabit recreational swimming holes, hot tubs, home pools and water parks.

Caused by a number of germs and bacteria, including E.coli, norovirus and cryptosporidium, diarrhea is the most common recreational waterborne illness (RWI), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most parents and swimmers take careful precautions to prevent the spread of harmful germs, but far too many people over-rely on the pool’s chemical safeguards.

Chlorine doesn’t kill all waterborne germs, and even when it does, there may be significant time elapsing between the germ’s introduction into the water and its eradication. Additionally, sweat and urine in the water distract chlorine from the most malicious bacteria.

Go Have Fun

Even though RWIs are an extremely unpleasant thought to take with you on a recreational outing, there’s no need to let fear keep you from having fun. Water parks have to comply with strict regulation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and they face serious consequences if found to practice suboptimal safety measures.

Importantly, take care of you and yours. If you have an infant or toddler—anyone who isn’t potty trained—be certain to outfit the child with swim diapers. These prevent harmful bacteria and germs leaking into the water. If you notice your child needs changing, do so immediately.

Another important consideration is to keep sweat out of the pool, according to the CDC. While not of major concern at the water park, if you swim as part of your workout, don’t go directly from the weight room to the pool. Take a shower with soap first.

Water Park Safety Tips

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions highlights the mutual responsibility between water parks and their patrons. To safely maximize your family’s fun this summer, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Gear up. Weak swimmers and children shorter than 4 feet tall should wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device.
  2. Let the experts guide you. Read the signs and follow instructions from lifeguards. They know where potential water hazards are.
  3. Don’t get burned. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and reapply it at least every two hours or more frequently when swimming or sweating.
  4. Bring a friend. The buddy system is the best system. If your family is planning a trip to a water park, you have a built-in buddy system. Stick together.
  5. Dress appropriately. Bring a hat and a shirt for when you’ve had enough of the sun.

Have more questions about your family’s health during the summer and throughout the year? A KishHealth System Physician Group provider can help.



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