By Mary Wade Triplett, Monongalia County Health Department
“Have a great summer!”
“Where are you going on vacation?”
Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer, if not the scientific one.
And while messages such as the ones above may be ringing in many people’s conversations, Monongalia County Health Department’s Environmental Health program has an important one to add:
“Don’t poop in the pool.”
It might seem obvious, but as Healthy and Safe Swimming Week ends Sunday, it’s time to review its central message: Pools and poop don’t mix.
To paraphrase the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — The pool, spa or water playground is the last place someone sick with diarrhea should be. Just one diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of germs. If someone swallows a mouthful of the water, it can cause diarrhea lasting up to three weeks.
That’s why Healthy and Safe Swimming Week encourages swimmer hygiene and the need for swimmers to be proactive in protecting themselves and those around them.
Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or having contact with contaminated water. Diarrhea is the most common RWI, but others include skin, ear, respiratory, eye and neurologic infections. Children are more likely to get these illnesses than adults.
To keep poop out of the pool, and to ensure your children’s safety when they swim, here are guidelines recommended by CDC:
Don’t swim or let your kids swim when sick with diarrhea.
Don’t swallow the water.
Check out the pool’s latest inspection report. You can do that by going to this website: monchd.org/pools.html, and then click on Online Inspection Reports.
Take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or more if needed.
Check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area, not waterside.
Shower before you get in the water.
Do a mini-inspection of the pool. Here’s how:
Buy strips to test pH and free chlorine or bromine in the pool. These can be purchased at most superstores, hardware stores and pool supply stores.
CDC recommends pH 7.2–7.8. The free chlorine concentration should be at least 1 ppm in pools and at least 3 ppm in hot tubs/spas. The free bromine concentration should be at least 3 ppm in pools and at least 4 ppm in hot tubs/spas.
Other segments of the mini-inspection include making sure the drain at the bottom of the deep end of the pool is visible; the drain covers at the bottom appear to be secured and in good repair; and that a lifeguard is on duty at the pool, or it at least has safety equipment such as a rescue ring or pole.
If a pool does not pass, don’t get in the pool, the CDC recommends. Complaints can be made through Environmental Health at 304-598-5131 or online at monchd.org/contact-environmental.html.
And rest assured that Environmental Health’s registered sanitarians also inspect pools. Each pool undergoes a full inspection twice a year. Sanitarians also stop by each pool bi-weekly to check pH and chlorine. If they receive a complaint, sanitarians respond within 10 days.
Other swimming safety tips in addition to taking lessons include using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more, re-applying often. Remember that the sun is harshest from late morning to mid-afternoon. Also, drink plenty of fresh water … even if it means having to get out of the pool to take another bathroom break.
Contact Mary Wade Triplett at 304-598-5152 or at MaryWade.Triplett@wv.gov. Contact MCHD at 304-598-5100 and find out more about MCHD at monchd.org or on Facebook and Twitter @wvmchd.