In southeast Minnesota, swimming, boating, paddle boarding, or even just taking a soak in the hot tub should be fun, but, if you don't take just a couple of easy precautions, you could be spending a few days in the bathroom...or worse.

humorous sign indicating male and female toilet facilities

How to Avoid Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)

It's the germs and the chemicals in the water that cause RWIs. You may remember frequent closings of beaches last summer as animal waste was repeatedly found at unsafe levels. But it isn't just birds and dogs that can mess up the water.

Lady scientist in microbiology laboratory working with E coli culture

Humans are pretty good at it too. Olmsted County Public Health Services Sanitarian Kaitlin Anderson said,

"A person with diarrhea may easily contaminate the water at pools, hot tubs, splash pads, and water parks...Swimmers can get sick by swallowing contaminated water. It is important to take some simple steps to prevent RWIs."

According to Olmsted County Public Health, the most common symptoms of RWIs include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever. You may also find they cause problems with the skin, ears, eyes, and, in more severe cases, problems with the lungs or brain.


How to Avoid Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)

Follow these tips and you'll reduce your chance of an RWI:

  • Don't swim or participate in water-related activities if you have diarrhea. (Fun fact, the first time I read that word out loud on the air I said, "Der-rear-ree-uh).
  • Avoid swallowing the pool or lake water. (Poop germs are total jerks and just waiting to get inside you and make you sick.)
  • Shower before and after getting in the pool or lake. (I am SO guilty of not doing this - time for a new habit.)
  • Take a break every few hours to use the restroom and wash your hands. (Washing's amazing how much good it does for you and your friends and strangers in the pool)
  • Check diapers often and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area – not poolside. (No poop poolside...I like the alliteration.)
  • Wash your hands after changing diapers. (Why wouldn't you be doing this anyway? Seriously...pee or poop = wash your hands.)

If you experience any RWI symptoms, it's essential to see a health care provider as soon as possible. You should also avoid swimming or participating in other water-related activities until you feel better.

As always, if you have a comment, complaint, or concern about something I wrote here, please let me know:


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