State health officials offer tips to prevent recreational water illnesses

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Press release from the Indiana State Department of Health:

State Health Officials Offer Tips to Prevent Recreational Water Illnesses

(INDIANAPOLIS – May 25, 2010) – Water safety is the big concern during National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week (May 24-30, 2010). The goal of this observance is to raise awareness about healthy swimming behaviors, including the prevention of recreational water illnesses and injuries.

Recreational water illnesses are spread by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, spas, interactive fountains, lakes, or rivers.

State health officials say the best way to prevent recreational water illnesses from pools is to keep germs out. Jennifer House, D.V.M., Director of Zoonotic and Environmental Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health, says everyone can help create healthy swimming experiences this summer by following these six healthy swimming steps:

  • don’t swim when you have diarrhea
  • don’t swallow pool water
  • practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
  • take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often
  • change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside
  • wash children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they swim

The Indiana State Department of Health also cautions Hoosiers of the possible presence of blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, at many of Indiana’s reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams where the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen from fertilizers.
“We recommend people use caution when swimming, skiing, or participating in other recreational water activities,” said Dr. House. “Avoid coming into direct contact with the algae and try to avoid swallowing water if at all possible.”

Even though it may not be visible, algae may still be present and anyone who recreates in Indiana’s waters should take common sense precautions, including:

  • Avoid coming in contact with visible algae while swimming, jet skiing or tubing
  • Avoid swallowing any water while swimming
  • Don’t let your pet drink or swim in contaminated water
  • If your pet does swim, be sure to properly bathe your pet afterwards and
  • Always supervise children playing in or around water, as they are more likely to swallow water

Dr. House says it is always a good idea to take a bath or shower with warm, soapy water after coming in contact with untreated water in ponds and lakes, especially before preparing or consuming food. She also recommends people never drink, cook, or shower with untreated water from lakes, ponds, or streams. Pets and livestock should not be allowed to swim in or drink untreated water from these sources.

Anyone who may be experiencing symptoms related to exposure to recreational waters, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle weakness, or difficulty breathing, should contact their health care provider.

For more information on recreational water illnesses, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s Web site on healthy swimming at For more information on blue-green algae, visit Indiana’s Blue-Green Algae Web site at

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