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Posted: Wed, 15 May 2013 10:23 CDT
Category: Environmental Health

Recreational Water Illness: Are You to Blame?

Every year, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) investigates hundreds of cases of recreational water illnesses (RWIs), which are caused by germs found in places where we swim - including pools, spas, lakes and streams. Some of these germs occur naturally, but humans are often the cause of RWIs.

“To be blunt, most RWIs in pools are caused by human poop in the water,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Just one diarrheal incident from a child can release enough germs into the water that swallowing a mouthful can cause diarrhea lasting anywhere from a couple days to two to three weeks.”

Some germs can last hours or days, even in a properly chlorinated pool. To help protect yourself and other swimmers from germs, there are simple and effective steps all pool swimmers can take each time they swim:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. Keep children with diarrhea out of the water.
  • If possible, shower with soap before you start swimming, and take a rinse shower each time you return to the water.
  • Take bathroom breaks every hour.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Don’t change diapers poolside - use the restroom.
  • Don’t swallow the water you swim in.

May 20 through 26 is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week. For more information about healthy swimming, visit

Contact Information: Polly Carver-Kimm at (515) 281-6693

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