Healthy Swimming Tips

Happy child swimming in a pool

Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Recreational Water Illnesses

Swimming is a popular, fun summer activity with health benefits for people of all ages.  It is important to remember, however, that pools and other types of recreational water venues can be places where germs can spread.

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans1.  RWIs can include infections of the skin, eye, ear, respiratory, neurologic, and gastrointestinal systems.  The most common symptom of RWI is diarrhea, which can be caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium) Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli Other infections include Legionella, Hot Tub Rash, Swimmers Ear, and MRSA.

Swimmers and individuals playing in interactive fountains and spray parks share the water with everyone.  People with diarrheal illness who swim can quickly contaminate the water with millions of germs.  Even water that is properly chlorinated can be potentially harmful as it can take anywhere from a few minutes to several days to remove some types of illness-causing organisms from the water.  Swallowing even a small amount of recreational water that has been contaminated with germ-containing feces.

Fortunately, there are steps that everyone can take to help keep recreational waters safe.

Three Steps for All Swimmers

Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs):

Three Steps for Parents of Young Children

Keep germs out of the pool:

Additional information about RWIs and other swimming-related issues can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

1Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week. (2011). Retrieved June 10, 2011, from