Make a healthy splash: Share the fun, not the germs

5/20/2015, 8:03 p.m.
This coming Memorial Day weekend, before you jump in the water, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds you ...
Pool swimming can be fun but there are also health risks so follow these rules to stay safe.

This coming Memorial Day weekend, before you jump in the water, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds you of some simple things you can do to stay healthy while swimming. “Swimming is a great summertime activity,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “To make sure it doesn’t end in illness from swallowing germs in pool water, or injury from too many chemicals, IDPH has some basic prevention tips to help keep you safe and healthy when swimming.

The week before Memorial Day is designated as National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. This year’s theme, “Make a Healthy Splash: Share the Fun, not the

Germs,” focuses on the role of swimmers, pool/beach staff, residential pool owners and public health officials in preventing drowning, pool chemical injuries and outbreaks of illnesses. It highlights swimmer hygiene and the need for swimmers to take an active role in helping to protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs.

Why is this important? Simple and effective prevention steps we can all take. Illnesses caused by the germs in the places we swim: In 2011–2012, almost 100 outbreaks nationally were linked to swimming. Chlorine and other disinfectants kill most germs within minutes, but some can survive for days. Pee, poop, sweat, bodies mix with chlorine and form chemicals that can make our eyes red and trigger asthma attacks. All swimmers:

• Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.

• Shower with soap before you start swimming.

• Don’t poop or pee in the water.

• Don’t swallow the water.

Every hour—everyone out!

• Take kids on bathroom breaks.

• Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper changing area—not poolside.

• Swim diapers and swim pants are not lead proof and do NOT stop germs or diarrhea from getting into the water.


Every day, two children in the U.S. younger than 14 years old die from drowning. It is the leading cause of injury death for children 1–4 years old. Keep swimmers safe in the water.

• Make sure everyone knows how to swim.

• Use life jackets appropriately.

• Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers.

• Know CPR Healthy and Safe Swimming Week/ Page 2

Injuries caused by mishandling pool chemicals (for pool operators and residential pool owners): Pool chemicals are added to the water to kill germs and maximize disinfection. Each year, however, mishandling of pool chemicals by pool operators and residential pool owners leads to 3,000–5,000 visits to emergency departments across the U.S. Chemicals:

• Read and follow directions on product labels.

• Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.

• Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals.

• Add pool chemicals when no one is in the water.

• NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.

• Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.

• Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemical. To help prevent illnesses associated with swimming at Illinois beaches, each licensed beach is inspected annually to determine if required safety features are in place and if there are sources of possible pollution, such as sewage discharges. To learn about beach closures, advisories and test results, check out the Illinois Beach Guard System at


Additional information about swimming pools and other swimming facilities can be found at