Public Pools and Recreation

Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life. However, it is important to be aware of ways to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs), sunburn, and drowning that can take place.

Recreational Water Illness

swim3If you think you have a recreational water illness that needs medical attention, contact your health care provider. Report suspected recreational water illnesses to Public Health Solutions Health Department or your local health department. Health care providers, hospitals, and local health departments are required to report water related illnesses.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems. RWIs can be a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia,Shigella, norovirus and E. coli O157:H7.

Swimmer’s Ear – Otitis externa

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal and can affect anyone, but is most common in children. Symptoms usually start a few days after swimming and include ear pain, itchiness, redness, swelling, and pus draining from the infected ear. It can be treated with antibiotic ear drops. Swimmer’s ear is caused when water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, allowing germs to grow and infect the skin. When swimming, try to keep ears dry. If water gets in your ear, tilt your head with ear facing down and gently pull your earlobe in different directions to help the water drain out. Learn more at Swimmer’s Ear, CDC.

Sun Exposure

Prevent sun burns and skin cancer by choosing five protection options: seeking shade, covering up, getting a hat, wearing sunglasses, and rubbing on sunscreen. Learn more at Choose Your Cover, CDC.

Drowning Facts


Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old in the United States.

Among children ages 1 to 4 years old, most drownings occur in residential swimming pools. Many of these drownings included a child who had been out of sight less than 5 minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time. Those who own pools or spas are required to meet state and local regulations to prevent drowning.

Attentiveness while swimming in lakes is imperative. Always make sure everyone is equipped with a life vest, properly fitted for the persons age, to ensure safety for all.


Never take your eyes off children in the water – not even for a minute. Parents may think they’ll hear splashing and screaming when a child is in trouble, but when a child drowns, it usually happens quickly and silently.

Don’t allow a young child in the pool without an adult.

Knowing how to swim does not make a child drown-proof. Never use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.

If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.