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Practice good hygiene to avoid recreational water illnesses

The City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department and Parks and Recreation Department urge everyone to use healthy swimming practices to avoid spreading illnesses.

Untreated or under-treated recreational water can contain harmful micro-organisms (microbes) from wastewater runoff, animal waste, sewage and swimmers who are ill. These microbes can cause recreational water illnesses in humans. The most common illness is diarrhea, which is caused by microbes like E. coli, Shigella, Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Other illnesses include skin, ear and respiratory infections.

Swimmers who are ill with diarrhea may contaminate swimming venues; this poses health risks for the healthy swimmers in the pool. In addition, high-risk groups such as the young, the elderly, the pregnant and the immunosuppressed also should be advised about recreational water illness prevention and healthy swimming behaviors. These are some healthy swimming behaviors:

    Staying out of the pool when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

    Avoiding getting water in your mouth. If you do, be careful not to swallow it.

    Practicing good hygiene. Shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet and changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

    Taking children on bathroom breaks and changing diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.

    Changing diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.

    Washing your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their bottoms that end up in the pool.

"Recreational water venues provide ample opportunities for people to increase their level of physical activity and enjoy their leisure time," said Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Health Department. "To make this summer a healthy swimming experience, we urge swimmers to continue to enjoy swimming, but only after adopting healthy swimming behaviors that will prevent the spread of illness."

For more information about Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week and healthy swimming, visit

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