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Healthy Communities

Safe and Healthy Swimming

image of little boy at the swimming poolPools, waterparks, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds are great places to have fun, be active, or just relax. Having fun while you are in the water this summer means knowing how to stay healthy and safe!

Swimming is one of the most popular sports activities in the United States, and just 2.5 hours of water-based (or other forms of) physical activity per week has health benefits no matter your age. As with any physical activity, we maximize the health benefits when we each do our part to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

Swimmers and parents of young swimmers can help protect their health and the health of their families and friends by checking the latest inspection results for public pools, water playgrounds, and hot tubs/spas.

They can also complete their own simple and short inspection before getting into any treated water. Get an inspection checklist or use the checklist below:

Check online or onsite for your public pool's latest inspection results.

Do your own inspection

Before getting into any treated water, do your own inspection. Check the following items if they pass your inspection.

If you find any problems during your inspection, tell the person in charge of the pool, hot tub/spa, or water playground so the problems can be fixed before you swim. If the person in charge does not fix the problems, report them to your state or local health graphic of Safe Swimming checklistdepartment.

Use test strips to test pH and free chlorine or bromine concentration. Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell test strips. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Prevent Illness and Injury

Recreational Water Illness (RWI) can be caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water playgrounds, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs are a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections.

Most outbreaks reported to CDC linked to the water in which we swim, relax, and play are outbreaks of diarrhea. These outbreaks are caused by germs like Crypto (short for  Cryptosporidium), Giardia , Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli0157:H7.

These germs—sometimes millions at a time—can spread when someone who is sick has diarrhea in the water. Other people can get sick if they swallow the germy water—even just a mouthful.

Pool chemicals, like chlorine or bromine, are added to the water to kill germs. But they don't work right away. If used properly, they can kill most germs within a few minutes. However, some germs, like Crypto can live in properly treated water for several days.

The job of pool chemicals is to kill germs. But when pee, poop, sweat, and shed the dirt off our bodies into the water, the chemicals break down these other things instead of killing germs. This uses up the chemicals' power, which means there's less to kill germs.

Staying safe in and around the water is important, too. Don't forget sun safety and drowning prevention. Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 1–14 years old. In fact, drowning kills more young children 1-4 years than anything else except birth defects. Of drowning victims who survive and are treated in emergency rooms, more than half are hospitalized or transferred for further care. These individuals often experience brain damage, which can cause memory problems, learning disabilities, or permanent loss of basic functioning (or permanent vegetative state). Learning swimming skills like floating, wearing life vests and swimming under the supervision of parents, caregivers or life guards who know CPR can prevent drowning.

image of children at swimming classStay Healthy in the Water

Remember, we share the water—and the germs in it—with everyone. To help protect yourself, your family, and your friends from germs and injuries, use the checklist above before getting in the water, and follow these easy and effective steps each time you get in the water:

Protect yourself and others!

Once you are in the water…

Every hour—everyone out!

FREE Healthy and Safe Swimming Resources

More Information

Content provided and maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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Arkansas Department of Health
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