Safe-swimming tip: Don't drink the water, and other unmentionables

The Mirror

Drowning and other accidents aren’t the only hazards in lakes and pools this summer.

The Seattle-King County Public Health Department reminds swimmers to practice good water hygiene to avoid recreational water illnesses and swimmers’ itch.

Water-borne illnesses are caused by germs such as E. coli that can infect a person who accidentally swallows or has contact with water contaminated by human or animal waste, officials cautioned.

Their recommended defense:

• Don’t swallow the water. Keep lake water out of your mouth

• Cover infants’ diapers with tight plastic pants or use diapers designed for swimming

• Don’t swim in a pool or lake if you’ve had a fever, diarrhea or nausea within the past 24 hours

• Showering before swimming

• Change diapers in a bathroom. Wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers

• Take young children on bathroom breaks often

“Paying attention to water safety and good personal hygiene is essential for the health and well-being of the whole community,” said Dr. Alonzo Plough, director of the Health Department.

Health officials can close beaches to swimming when bacteria levels in the water rise above established standards. The levels are monitored, with information available on-line from the county at

Officials said pool and spa operators are required to treat them with chemicals to kill harmful germs. It is the patron’s responsibility to follow all posted rules at pools and spas, including showering before use, wearing tight-fitting plastic pants over diapers, and avoiding use when sick.

At lakes, ducks and geese share the water and beaches with people, which can lead to swimmers’ itch. The skin condition is caused when parasites from water fowl burrow into a swimmer’s skin and die. While not contagious or long-lasting, the parasite may cause itchy, red bumps for about a week, and can become infected with excessive scratching, officials advised.

To avoid the itch, lake swimmers and waders should apply a waterproof sunscreen prior to swimming and dry off briskly with a towel as soon as they get out of the water, officials said.

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