PEORIA — The swimming season is upon us, and so is the concern of pee in the pool.
While it’s disgusting, urine is actually the least of your worries.
“Urine doesn’t usually carry a risk of infection,” said Dr. Ban Al-Sayyed, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with OSF Healthcare. There are a few viruses shed in the urine, but generally they don’t cause problems unless someone is very young or immunocompromised.
“You shouldn’t take small babies to public pools,” said Al-Sayyed. “My personal advice would be to wait until they get the three sets of immunizations. Usually by six months.”
While urine is not a big deal, fecal matter is. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, diarrhea is the most common cause of recreational water illness. Just one diarrhea or vomiting accident in the water can release millions of germs. If swimmers swallow a mouthful of the water, it can cause diarrhea lasting up to three weeks.
Cryptosporidium is the leading cause of outbreaks linked to pools or water parks and it can survive in an adequately chlorinated pool for more than a week, said the IDPH. Other germs that can cause illness are giardia, norovirus, shigella and E. coli.
Though it sounds grim, swimming is a health activity the IDPH encourages. Swimmers should take a few precautions to protect themselves and others.Don’t swim or let your kids swim if they have or have had diarrhea in the past two weeks. If there is an accident, let the pool operator know. Try not to get water in your mouth. Check out the latest pool inspection report. Take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes. Check diapers every 30–60 minutes and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area — not waterside — to keep germs away from the water. Shower before and after you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just one minute helps get rid of most stuff that might be on swimmer’s body.
Al-Sayyed always follows this advice when she takes her children to the pool.
“If you follow these things you will not get sick after a trip to the pool,” she said.
Chillicothe Park District executive director Kevin Yates knows a lot about pool safety.
“We monitor our pool several times a day, for both chlorine and acidity levels. We check them before we open, and once during the day, and depending on crowds, we might check them again,” he said.
Maintaining proper chlorine and acidity levels helps combat both bacteria and algae in the pool.
As an added precaution, the Shore Acres Pool requires water safe diapers. If a child does have an accident in the pool, it’s cleared of swimmers and shocked with a high dose of chlorine, said Yates.
“The chlorine is like PAC-MAN, it comes along and eats all the bad stuff in the pool,” he said. “We let the pool rest, let things catch up and open it later in the day. If it’s a major situation, we’ll drain the kiddie pool.”
While water-borne diseases are concerning, drowning is a much greater risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from drowning every day. Of these, two are children age 14 and younger. Anyone participating in water activities should know how to swim and not swim beyond their limits, learn CPR, use life jackets when boating, and avoid drinking alcohol before swimming or boating.
“There are very few things that can happen that’s gonna injure the public when it comes to chemicals - if the chlorine is high, you are gonna be OK, if it’s on the low side, you will be OK,” said Yates. “But the drowning thing — there are times when we have huge crowds here. It’s not unusual to have 250 kids under the age of 5. We’re going to do the best we can, but you know what your child can do. It’s very important for people to watch their kids.”
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