Waterborne Illnesses: Cause & Prevention

March 23, 2020

Health is a major concern in the public arena at this current moment due to the Coronavirus.

But why should we wait until an epidemic to know about the health risks around us?

Just like air, many viruses, bacteria and diseases can be spread through water.

Recreational Water Illnesses

The Center for Disease Control defines Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) as “caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim in. They are 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 oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that turn into gas in the air and cause air quality problems at indoor aquatic facilities.” (CDC)

These waterborne illnesses come with a few different reactions such as diarrhea, rashes, ear infections, respiratory infections, and chemical irritation of the eyes and lungs.

Now that you know what an RWI is, let’s talk about some preventative measures!

Check the pool’s most recent inspection results.

  • pH 7.2–7.6
  • Free chlorine concentration of at least 3 ppm in hot tubs/spas and at least 1 ppm in other places with treated water
  • Free bromine concentration of at least 4 ppm in hot tubs/spas and at least 3 ppm in other places with treated water

Keep things sanitary! Community pools should have a shower installed on the pool deck or within the restrooms. These are for your advantage and to keep the pool community healthy. Everyone should shower before getting into the water. If you have diarrhea or an open wound that is not covered by a waterproof bandage, you should stay out of the water.

2020. Recreational Water Illnesses | Healthy Swimming | Healthy Water | CDC.


Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi.html> [Accessed 11 March 2020].

Image by: Jennifer Fairman, used to illustrate to physicians the highlights of recreational waterborne illnesses.

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