Do you recall the summer of 1975? Maybe not, however, I bet you do remember that Jaws had beachgoers heeding the advice of the movie’s tagline, “Don’t go in the water”. Those five words kept millions of Americans out of the water. Now, in 2018, some experts fear that a rapid increase of recreational water illness (RWI) may in fact, do the same thing. Unfortunately, many kids and adults alike don’t get enough regular exercise. Anything that could hinder exercising, including swimming, may do more harm than good.


You may be asking, ‘why does recreational water illnesses even occur?’ and that’s a good question. Swimmers share the water, and the germs in it, with every person who enters the pool. As a result, the germs simply show up. In the past two decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of RWI outbreaks associated with swimming.

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 oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems. RWIs can be a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. According to Aalen Greene, MD, “no one who swims is safe from RWI’s”.

But, there is good news! As with most things, the best defense is a good offense. It’s also smart to know your enemy. Unlike the great white shark from Jaws who lurked just below the ocean’s surface, simple prevention methods as well as quick treatment can help keep RWI’s at bay. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea, which is caused by germs such as Crypto, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli. The best defense against diarrhea associated with RWI is to make sure that anyone using your pool is not sick. Do not allow friends or family members to swim even for a short time as you do not want your water contaminated. Crypto can stay alive for days even in your well-maintained pool. It’s also become the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrheal illness.

Swimmer’s ear is the easiest to get. Excessive water in the ear canal breaks down the protective barrier in the ear and allows bacteria to get in. It is painful and progressive. Sometimes the ear will itch and produce discharge. Wearing ear plugs and/or a swimming cap pulled down over the ears is the best defense. After getting out of the water, employ the ‘tip and dip’ method. Simply tip your head to each side, gently pull on your earlobe, and any excess water will drain out. Encourage your children to do the same, because nothing ruins summer fun more than an ear ache. There are ear drops readily available that are formulated for swimmer’s ear, and pain relieving medications that can help.

Swimmer’s itch, is also known as cercarial dermatitis. It’s marked by tingling, burning or itching of the skin. Small, reddish pimples and/or small blisters can appear within minutes to days after swimming. Showering before and after taking a dip can help prevent skin rashes. Most cases of swimmer’s itch do not require medical attention, but not scratching and using an anti-itch cream can help. Swimmer’s itch is typically caused by swimming in lakes, ponds or oceans.

Most RWI’s (with the exception of diarrhea), are caused by germs that live naturally in the environment, in water and soil. Maintaining proper disinfectant levels in your pool or hot tub can keep these germs from multiplying and causing illness.

At Hawaiian Pool Builders, making sure you are enjoying your in-ground swimming pool is our number one goal. Keeping your pool water sparkling clean and virtually bacteria free is your priority. You can give yourself peace of mind with cleaner water by having us install Pentair’s BioShield® UV Sterilizer. By harnessing the power of UV light, bacteria is neutralized up to 99% to prevent its reproduction.

BioShield® UV Sterilizer: Recreational Water Illness
• Neutralizes harmful bacteria and pathogens instantly
• Reduces chlorine usage by up to 50%
• Employs commercial-grade sterilization power

Here are some of the unwanted guests you’ll kick out of your pool:
• Cryptosporidium – a leading cause of waterborne illness and is highly resistant to chlorine disinfection.
• Giardia – a microscopic parasite that causes severe intestinal discomfort.
• E. coli – can cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and other health issues.

Contrary to popular belief, chlorine does not kill all germs instantly. There are germs today that are very tolerant to chlorine and were not known to cause human disease until recently. Once these germs get in the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make you sick.

Anyone can come down with recreational water illness, but those who are most likely to get it are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. They can experience a more severe reaction to the illness(s) if infected.

Along with installing the BioShield® UV Sterilizer by Pentair, here are a few easy and effective healthy steps you can take to help protect your family and friends from recreational water illnesses:

Keep the pee, poop, sweat and dirt out of the water!
• Stay out if you have diarrhea.
• Shower before you get in the water.
• The pool is not a bathroom; go inside.
• Don’t swallow the water on purpose.

Every hour on the hour is break time!
• Take kids on a bathroom break.
• Check diapers and change them in a bathroom; never pool side.
• Drink plenty of fluids.

Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water. (You can get your test strips by stopping into our retail store and purchasing a supply for the summer.)
• Pools: Proper free chlorine level: (1-3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2-7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
• Hot Tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2-4 parts per million or ppm] or bromine [4-6 ppm] and pH [7.2-7.8]) maximize germ-killing power.

By following these simple guidelines, being aware of what an RWI looks like, and having Hawaiian Pool Builders install the BioShield® UV Sterilizer, you can enjoy your swimming pool practically worry-free this summer.  

Category: Pool Advice