Recreational Water Illnesses
The number of people using public and university swimming pools has been rising steadily over the past decade. With the increase in people using pools also come an increase in the potential for contracting a Recreational Water Illness (RWI). RWIs can be a wide variety infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea.
What does Campus Recreation do help stop the spread of RWIs?
Campus Recreation closely monitors the water chemistry of both the indoor and outdoor pools and spas to ensure that our patrons are safe from RWIs. Chemical levels are checked and adjusted several times a day to maintain the water chemistry at safe and healthy levels. We also have policies in place to help make sure that potentially hazardous germs do not enter the water by asking our patrons to wear proper swimming attire (including swim diapers for small children) and refrain from swimming if they have open sores or a recent occurrence of diarrhea. We also ask that all patrons shower before entering the pool or spa. By following these simple guidelines, you can reduce the risk of infection for yourself and your fellow swimmers.
What can you do to help?
As an individual, there are several things you can do to help us prevent the spread of RWIs. Please shower before swimming, and do not enter the water if you have had diarrhea. It is not advisable to swallow the water, and we ask that you please limit any spitting to the gutters only. Parents of small children should take children to the bathroom often, thoroughly wash children before entering the water, and limit diaper-changing to the bathrooms and locker rooms only. Small children should wear swim diapers and be checked and changed frequently.
Protection from sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can reach you on cloudy and hazy days just as well as on bright and sunny days, and they reflect off surfaces such as water, sand, and snow.
The hours between 10am and 4pm are the most hazardous for UV exposure, especially in the Spring and early Summer months.
CDC recommends a few easy options for sun protection:
- Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect the face, ears, head, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as much UVA/UVB radiation as possible.
- Seek shade (especially during peak hours).
The sun's UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes! Always apply sunscreen before you go outside, even on overcast or cool days.
- How does sunscreen work? – Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to help protect it from UV radiation. Not all products contain the same ingredients, so if you have sensitive skin or don't feel one sunscreen is effective, switch to a new one!
- What is SPF? – Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. The higher the SPF number, the more protection it offers. You should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
- How often should I reapply? – As often as you feel necessary. It is recommended to reapply every 2 hours or so, but more often if you're sweating or in the water. Since sweat and water can wash off sunscreen, you would need to reapply more often to maintain that level of protection.
- What does the expiration date really mean? – Throw your old sunscreen away! That bottle of SPF 45 you've had for the past 5 summers isn't any good anymore. Sunscreen DOES expire–meaning that the protection you think you're getting from your favorite bottle isn't even close to the protection you're actually getting. The average shelf life for sunblock WITHOUT a clearly marked expiration date is 3 years–less if it has been exposed to high temperatures (i.e. sitting in your call all summer for the past few years).
- What about my make-up? – Some cosmetics and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. But if they have an SPF lower than 15, do not use these cosmetics as your only form of sun protection.
Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made of tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from UV rays. A dry T-shirt offers more protection than a wet one, and dark-colored shirts offer more protection than light ones. If this type of attire isn't practical for your needs, try to at least wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. A typical T-shirt has an SPF less than 15, so be sure to use other types of skin protection as well.
For maximum protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck.
For more information on swimming health and safety, please visit the Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.