The glorious days of pool season are upon us and it's likely your child can't wait to jump in with both feet (literally). You're all about it as nothing tires out a kid like a good swim or splash, all while breathing in the sweet smells of fresh air. Not to harsh your mellow, because we really do want you to have a blast this summer, but there could be a hidden danger lurking in that pool that needs your attention.
Regardless of whether or not your kids are mini Michael Phelps or supported by well-made floaties and your unwavering attention, swimming-related disease is a real thing and it's not something you want your family to experience.
Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about a Crypto parasite that continues to plague pools and water playgrounds, causing serious outbreaks and illness. According to their report, one in three swimming disease outbreaks actually occur at hotel pools. And it's not that these places aren't trying to maintain the health of their pools, it's that Crypto is that strong.
"Crypto is a parasite tough enough to survive even in properly maintained pools," says the report. "Pseudomonas and Legionella are bacteria that can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools, and water playgrounds."
So how does Crypto spread in the first place? The answer won't surprise you, but it will disgust you.
It arises in pools when someone sick with the parasite has diarrhea in the water and other swimmers swallow that contaminated water. This stuff is so tough, the CDC recommends parents of children who have experienced diarrhea wait an entire two weeks before allowing their little one to go back into the pool or water playground (that goes for adults, too).
It doesn't take a ton of the stuff to make you sick, either.
"Swallowing just a mouthful of water with Crypto in it can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting," said Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, in the press release. "Chlorine cannot kill Crypto quickly. We need to keep it out of the water in the first place. Don’t go into the water, and don’t let your kids go into the water, if sick with diarrhea."
There are ways to keep your kids safe in the pool in regards to swimming-related disease. The CDC recommends making note of the inspection scores on pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. Additionally, you can use test strips (available from a variety of retailers) that check the water's pH and bromine or free chlorine level. If the results don't match the test's chart, it may be a good day to skip the pool to avoid any unwanted illness.
Of course, you can always remind your child not to swallow the water, but that isn't always easy when there's a lot of splashing going on. And, parents, please take your brood for regular bathroom breaks, changing diapers away from the water so as not to do any damage to the integrity of the pool water.
Just when you thought you'd have a little time to relax, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.