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Swim Safely This Summer
Protect Yourself from Recreational Water Illnesses

Published: June 11, 2018

Poughkeepsie … With the summer swimming season is rapidly approaching, water-based physical activity, especially swimming, is a great way to get exercise and relaxation. The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) reminds swimmers about the risk of recreational water illnesses and how to minimize these risks.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or improper pool chemical levels.  They are spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water in pools, hot tubs, and water parks, as well as, rivers, lakes and oceans.  RWIs can affect the stomach, intestines, skin, respiratory system, eyes, or nervous system. 

“No one experiencing diarrhea should ever enter a swimming a pool,” said DBCH Commissioner A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH.  “Such activity can easily cause contamination of the swimming water, exposing fellow swimmers to the very real risk of falling ill.”

Since all swimmers share the water, the following simple steps should be taken to quell the spread of germs:

  • Don’t swim, and don’t let children swim, when sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow swimming water.
  • Shower before getting in the water.
  • Do not defecate or urinate in the swimming water.
  • If a vomiting or fecal accident occurs in the water, alert a lifeguard or someone in charge, if available, so precautionary steps can be taken to avoid potential illnesses. 
  • Do not swim in water that is discolored or contains growths; this may indicate that a harmful algal bloom is present, or other infectious or noxious substances.
  • Towel dry immediately after leaving the water to reduce the possibility of developing swimmer’s itch, a parasite that burrows into skin.

Report any suspected RWIs to the Dutchess County Communicable Disease Control at 845-486-3402.

Homeowners with pools or spas are advised to maintain disinfection levels at proper concentrations, monitor levels and pH several times daily, apply chemicals appropriately, and properly maintain the disinfection, pumps and filters.

Swimming at a DBCH-regulated facility reduces one’s risk for an RWI.  The disinfection levels and pH at regulated pools are checked at least three times per day, and circulation and disinfection are continuous.  Regulated bathing beaches are sampled by DBCH weekly to determine the level of fecal coliform present.  Swimming facility operators are aware of RWIs and the steps to take to reduce risk and help ensure a safe swimming experience.

For further information on RWIs, please visit: