Nothing feels better on a hot summer day than jumping into the water. Spending time in the pool, ocean, lake, or river is a fabulous way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. However, water can also contain harmful bacteria and germs that cause illness.

One way germs can be carried into swim areas is by water runoff.  After heavy rain, water can get contaminated with sewage, insecticides, or other chemicals. While all bodies of water can contain harmful bacteria or toxins, there is a greater risk in stagnant water such as a pond. Creeks and streams often contain harmful germs and may not be monitored for water quality. Swimming or playing in creeks and streams can put you at risk for waterborne illness or infection. The good news is, our body has natural defenses that can fight off most organisms, and it is rare to get sick from swimming in these waters. However, there are some steps we can take to protect ourselves and our kids. 


  • 1

    Know Before You Go

    • Before you head out, check online to find out if the swim area is currently monitored, is under advisory, or has been closed for health or safety reasons. This is especially important after heavy rain.
    •  Take note of the water’s surface (if it looks oily or stagnant, stay out), as well as all posted signs and warnings prior to jumping in for a swim.
    • Avoid the water if you see any pipes draining into or around the water.
      • Water in pipes can pick up animal or human feces and bring germs into the swim area, especially after heavy rains or rainfalls after long periods of drought.
  • 2

    Keep Water and Sand Out of Your Mouth and Nose

    • Don’t swallow the water and tell your kids to keep water out of their mouths. Water can contain germs that can make you sick if swallowed.
    • Keep sand away from your mouth and children’s mouths. Sand can contain germs that can make you sick if swallowed.
  • 3

    Get Kids To Take Bathroom Breaks

    • Kids who are not potty trained may make a bowel movement in the water,  and that can make everyone very sick.
    • Every hour,  get everyone OUT of the water for a bathroom break to keep poop and pee out of the water.
      • Check diapers. If needed, change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area to keep germs away from the water and sand.
  • 4

    Know Your Body

    If your body’s ability to fight germs is already affected by other health problems or medicines, check with your healthcare provider before swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers, and other natural bodies of water.  Never enter the water with an open wound or cut, especially from surgery or piercing.

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