The weather’s still a bit chilly for swimming, but soon enough, Nebraskans will be frolicking and splashing in their backyard and community pools.
An epidemiologist says good personal hygiene can prevent water-related illnesses. Patty Quinlisk says hundreds of cases of illness are traced to water every year and usually, the trouble was avoidable.
“Swimming is relatively safe, but of course we can always make it safer,” Quinlisk says. “One of the things that sometimes happens is people get an illness — often a diarrheal illness — in a pool or a spa or at the beach, after basically somebody has pooped in the water.”
Quinlisk says common-sense lessons need to be learned to avoid illnesses.
“We just need to educate, particularly children, that if they have to go to the bathroom, they need to get out of the pool or onto the beach and go to a bathroom and do their business there. They shouldn’t be doing it in the water,” Quinlisk says.
Pools have signs asking patrons to shower before entering the pool. Quinlisk says that is an important step in preventing illness.
“We don’t realize it, but we do get some of that bacteria that’s normally in our stool on our skin,” she says. “If you got take a shower first and wash that off, then you’re not washing it off in the pool, you’re washing it off in the shower and it’s going down the drain.”
She says most public pools do a good job of checking chlorine levels and the chlorine can take care of small amounts of bacteria that get into the water, but home pools can be a different story. She says the “kiddie pools” that you fill up yourself don’t contain chlorine to deal with bacteria.
Quinlisk says you can use some bleach in the water of a home pool to help get rid of some bacteria. She says it’s important to avoid swallowing the water you swim in at the pool or lake to prevent illness.