Print Posted on 08/05/2016 in Pool Health and Fitness

Is your pool water making your children sick

Is your pool water making your children sick

Is your pool water safe?  Your pool service professional has the answer!

Water - Play Safety: Under the Microscope  

Swimming is the most popular exercise activity in the U.S, second only to walking. Each year, approximately 400 million people visit recreational water venues such as pools, water parks, wading pools and water slides.

But did you know that recreational water can also spread disease? Swimming and other water activities, like “spray-grounds”, used by many people at once, can pass germs from one person to another.

Understanding how water illnesses can spread during water play and other activities is a first step to keeping young children and caregivers healthy. Water can be used for a number of fun activities with more than one child using the same water.

How Illness Spreads in Water

When children swim or play in any water venue or activity, they share the water, slides, and toys with others. Germs on and in children’s bodies may rinse into the water and make other people sick, so sanitation is key.

Many things can interfere with the sanitation of water activity play areas and equipment. Dirt and debris can enter the water or may rinse off a person’s body into the water.

With standing water that is not changed frequently or lacks a filtration system to regularly clean out the water, sanitation can be compromised. Germs can live in all types of water-play areas, including pools, wading pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans.

Natural water areas like lakes, rivers, and oceans can become contaminated with germs from sewage, animal waste, and rainfall, as well as germs rinsed off people’s bodies. Also, sprinklers and water slides that allow for water to accumulate in some areas can be fun places to play, but also can be a place for germs to grow and spread.

Water often is contaminated with germs from many sources. Swimmers or people playing in or with water need only to swallow some water, touch wet hands to their mouths or noses, or immerse themselves in water to let those germs into their bodies.

Types of Water Illnesses

A warm, moist environment provides a place for bacteria or viruses to live and grow, resulting in diarrhea, skin rash, swimmer’s ear, and other conditions.

Swimmer’s ear is caused by excessive water in the ear canal that allows bacteria or fungi to grow and infect the ear. The primary symptom of swimmer’s ear is ear pain and tenderness in and around the ear. Pulling gently on the earlobe will cause pain. The outer ear may become red, swollen, and sensitive.

Treatment usually involves a doctor’s visit to obtain a prescription for eardrops. Some children with tubes in their ears cannot use such products, so doctor will treat the infection differently.

Another common waterborne ailment is “swimmer’s rash” or “swimmer’s itch,” which is a skin infection often caused by bacteria that can be common in warm water. Swimmer’s rash or itch may include blisters and sometimes looks like chicken pox. A childcare provider should recommend that a parent or guardian take a child with a rash to the doctor for correct treatment.

The most common illness that spreads in the water is diarrhea. If someone is ill with diarrhea or just getting well, his/her germs can contaminate the water. When people play in the water, especially diaper-aged children, they can contaminate the water with fecal matter.

Be aware that swim diapers and swim pants are not solutions for children with diarrhea, nor should they substitute for frequent diaper changing. It is recommended that a child in diapers be changed often, or make frequent trips to the toilet during water activities. Once fecal matter is in the water, diarrhea may spread to others when water is swallowed or driven into the mouth or nose during water activities.

Keeping Germs Away

So how can you be sure that water-play will not make children sick? Chlorine in properly disinfected pools and other water venues generally kills most germs that can cause illness, usually in less than an hour (although it takes longer to kill certain germs).

However, not all interactive fountains, above-ground pools, or other water-play areas are properly chlorinated or filtered. If you are taking children to enjoy water activities at a public venue, ask those in charge about chlorine use.  Remember that just because the water is clear does not mean it is free from infectious bacteria.

The health department requires public pools and water parks maintain specific chlorine levels in order to remain open. Water that is not treated with chlorine, such as portable wading pools, can easily transmit disease; therefore, they are not permitted in childcare settings according to the Caring for our Children National Health and Safety Performance Standards. Sprinklers, hoses, or water-play tables provide a more sanitary alternative.

Water-play areas should be free of any signs of mold and mildew. Slides, toys or pools that have mold spots signal that the areas have not been cleaned properly or regularly with disinfectant products.

Frequent draining or rinsing with fresh water can keep these areas safe for many children to share. The usual methods of cleaning children’s play areas with disinfectant should also be applied to water-play areas on a daily basis.

All children and adults should wash their hands before and after playing in water that is used by more than one person. Remember to empty buckets, or other water-play equipment immediately after use not only for sanitation purposes, but also to reduce the risk of drowning.

Tips for Healthy Water Play

Following a few healthy behaviors can help children stay well in the water while stopping germs from getting in the water in the first place. The following are six “PLEAs” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promote healthy water environments

Three “PLEAs” for swimmers:

Please do not allow children to participate in water-play if they have diarrhea. They can spread germs in the water and make other people sick. This is especially important for children in diapers.

Please do not swallow the pool water. Teach children to avoid getting water in their mouths.

Please practice good hygiene. Help children rinse off with soap and water before swimming or water play and wash all hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Three “PLEAs” for caregivers of young children:

Please take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often.

Please change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area—not at poolside or near other water activity. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the water-play area and cause illness.

Please wash small children thoroughly (especially the diapered area) with soap and water before swimming.

Lastly, the ONLY way to check if the chlorine level is good is to use a calibrated professional quality test kit with reagents that are in date.

Good pool water sanitation is possible by responsible consistent homeowner attention to the water chemistry and balance, however if you are not comfortable with this responsibility, the easiest fix is to engage the services of a pool care professional.

A good pool service or pool cleaning company will provide regular and consistent water chemistry maintenance to keep your pool safe and ready for your children to enjoy!