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Posted on: May 23, 2018

Swimmers urged to help prevent illnesses at pools, water parks

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Many families will be visiting swimming pools and water parks for recreation, fun and to simply cool off during the summer. While these are great places to be active, they’re also places where germs can be spread.

Contrary to popular belief, chlorine and other disinfectants do not kill germs instantly. While most germs are killed within minutes, Cryptosporidium can live for days. Before they are killed, these germs can cause illnesses, such as gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported recreational water illness is diarrhea, which is caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, Norovirus and E. coli. Swallowing just a mouthful of water that contains these germs can make you sick.

“We encourage residents to protect themselves and others from illnesses by practicing healthy swimming behaviors,” said Environmental Health Supervisor Andrew Stull, of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

Here are a few easy and effective steps all swimmers can take to prevent illnesses:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before you get in the water. 
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water. 
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks.
  • Check diapers and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area — not poolside — to keep germs away from pool.

Stull said pools and water parks should not have a strong chemical smell. If you smell chlorine, what you're actually smelling is the chemicals that form when chlorine mixes with what comes from swimmers' bodies — pee, poop, sweat, dirt, skin cells and personal care products. These chemicals — not chlorine — can cause your eyes to get red and sting, make your nose run and make you cough.

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