Swimming is refreshing, fun, and good exercise but Mayo Clinic experts warn that many swimmers may not be aware of the water illnesses associated with taking a dip -- especially in a public pool.
"A swimming pool is basically a community bathtub without the shampoo," says Thomas Boyce, M.D. "Chlorine does not kill germs instantly and, in fact, does not kill cryptosporidium at all, which is a common germ that causes water-associated gastrointestinal illness."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21.6 percent of Americans don't know that swimming while they have diarrhea puts other swimmers at risk for water-associated illnesses. If you're planning to take the grandchildren to a pool, have them rinse off before entering the pool, don't allow any child with diarrhea to swim, and teach the kids not to swallow the pool water.
Also, whether you and yours swim in a pool, a lake, or the ocean, watch out for these common problems that are listed on the Mayo Clinic web site:
Swimmer's itch: A rash caused by parasites that live in freshwater snails and sometimes on waterfowl. Also called cercarial dermatitis, this condition typically clears up on its own within a few days. In the meantime, you can control itching with over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Swimmer's ear: An infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It's often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth. Also known as acute external otitis or otitis externa, the condition is usually treated successfully with eardrops.
Jellyfish stings: Relatively common problems for people swimming, wading or diving in seawaters. The tentacles from the jellyfish body can discharge thousands of microscopic barbed stingers that release venom into your skin. Most jellyfish stings get better with home treatment such as rinsing the affected area with vinegar for 30 seconds, applying a paste of baking soda and seawater, and soaking the affected area in hot water for 20 minutes after the vinegar and baking soda treatments. Lotions or ointments such as calamine lotion or lidocaine may relieve the discomfort. However, avoid these "old wives' tale" remedies: human urine, meat tenderizer, ethanol, and pressure bandages. Caution: Severe reactions require emergency medical care.