It’s Safe to Go In the Water, Just Don’t Swallow It
There is nothing better on a hot
summer day than a refreshing dip in a pool, stream, lake or
However, bacteria and parasites can lurk in all kinds of water
and put a real damper on summertime fun unless people practice a few, simple measures.
“One of the worst offenders is the kiddie wading pool,”
said Christopher Ohl, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest
Baptist Medical Center and medical director of
communicable diseases for the Forsyth County (N.C.) Health Department. “Warm,
shallow water and kids in swim diapers -- which don’t do a good job of containing
feces -- can create a perfect breeding ground for water-borne infections even
though the water is chlorinated. The best way to prevent young children from
getting sick is to keep them from swallowing that water.”
Ohl offers these other water safety tips:
- If children have had any type of gastrointestinal illness, parents
should keep them away from pools or water parks for several days to prevent
contamination of the water.
- Scream like crazy at water parks, but don’t swallow
- Freshwater lakes and streams can harbor
leptospirosis, a bacterium excreted in the urine of mammals that drink from the
water. Infection can cause fever with headache or muscle aches,
but usually can be treated, Ohl said. To prevent, just don’t swallow the water.
- Never drink untreated water in springs or
streams even if it looks fresh and pure. Remember that wild animals drink from
springs and streams and then often answer nature’s call often in the same place, Ohl
- To avoid contracting Naegleria, a rare but
deadly brain-eating amoeba that is almost impossible to treat, don’t jump feet
first into a warm, stagnant pond, especially during a very dry summer. According
to Ohl, jumping feet first into a pond can forcefully push water up into the
top of the nose where there is a bone plate with tiny holes that the amoeba can
crawl through to get into the brain.
- Salt water presents less of a problem regarding
infections from bacteria and parasites, but swimmers should stay out of the
water if they have a cut or wound that could become infected. Also, it is a
good idea to stay away from jellyfish floating on top of the water in the
ocean. “Most people don’t realize that the tentacles of some jellyfish,
especially Portuguese man-of-war, can be 10 to 15 feet long, so keep a safe
distance to keep from being stung,” Ohl said.
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