Making smart choices when we spend time hiking in the mountains or swimming in a lake or pool can help anyone avoid catching or spreading illnesses associated with water, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“It's time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Wyoming weather. But we also need to remember that when germs get into waters where we recreate, they can blast our fun by causing diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and shigellosis,” said Courtney Tillman, epidemiologist with WDH.
Disease symptoms can occur days to weeks after exposure and include diarrhea, stomach cramping, gas, bloating, nausea and appetite loss.
“Even waters that look clear and refreshing can contain germs that make us sick,” Tillman said. “It’s never a good idea to drink untreated water.”
Many germs that get into the water come from animal and human feces. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much contamination to create a messy problem so it’s important to prevent germs from getting into pools and lakes as much as possible,” Tillman said.
“Even pools treated with chlorine may contain germs that make you sick” Tillman said. “Cryptosporidium, the top cause of pool-related outbreaks, can live in chlorinated water for more than 10 days. Luckily, there are easy steps we can take to help prevent illness from contaminated water.”
Simple steps to help protect ourselves and others include:
- Avoid swimming on days when experiencing diarrhea. Germs can spread into the water and make others sick.
- Don’t swallow water from pools, streams, lakes or other untreated water sources and avoid getting the water in your mouth.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Use a filter or solution designed to remove germs from untreated water sources such as creeks, streams, or lakes before drinking.
Parents of young children should remember to:
- Wash children before swimming (especially their rear ends).
- Check diapers every 30–60 minutes. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not next to a pool or lake.
- Take children to the bathroom every 30–60 minutes. Waiting to hear “I have to go,” may mean it’s too late.
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/.