Top 11 Recreational Water Illnesses in Swimming Pools

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

Do you really know anything about recreational water illnesses? What really the illnesses are? How are they caused? And the most important how they are treated?


Across the country, there are several recreational activities that are dangerous and potentially life-threatening such as skydiving, rock climbing, mountain biking, rafting, and skiing.


An activity that is supposed to be fun and safe, the water park, has become a health risk. The water park includes swimming in pools, spas and hot tubs or paddling/swimming in lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans or water parks have recreational water illnesses.


People get sick from drinking contaminated water, sometimes even when it is properly chlorinated or disinfected.


There are many infectious diseases that are often associated with recreational swimming, paddling and resort use.


The EHA Consulting Group helps in epidemiological research and disease analysis related to recreational bathing activities and provide expert consultation on outbreak legal issues.


Swimming is a fantastic form of aerobic exercise, with approximately 2 to 2.5 hours a week this activity can reduce the risk of chronic illness. Regular swimmers have half the risk of dying, and it is also a type of exercise that we prefer for whole body exercise.


Recreational water illness infections can be prevented by simple measures taken by the public, water sports core staff and health authorities to prevent the presence of germs in the water.




Top 7 Recreational Water Illnesses in Swimming Pools


1. Diarrhea

It is the most common infection caused by the use of pool water. Germs that can pollute the water in the pool are particularly cryptosporidium which is chlorine tolerance and can live for several days in swimming pools and are the most common cause of epidemics of diarrhea in swimming pools, increased the prevalence of 200% during the last 4 years.


Other causes of infection can be from Norovirus, Giardia lamblia, Escherichia coli, and Shigella. Children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for infection.


Infections are transmitted by accidentally swallowing of contaminated water in the pool. Chlorine destroys these germs, but if it does not act immediately, there may be a “window period” when some of these bacteria at the time of swimming are still alive. Even the best-preserved pools can transmit the disease.


Healthy behaviors are needed in swimming pools for everyone to be protected. Tips for a safe swim follows:

  • Do not swim if you have diarrhea, especially important for children who wear diapers.
  • Do not swallow the water in the pool and prevent it from entering your mouth (it is not sterilized, it is not suitable for human consumption despite the chlorine).
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Shower before and after swimming.



2. Otitis externa

It is an infection of the outer ear, which is very common and associated with the use of recreational waters, that can occur at any age.


The symptoms usually appear a few days after swimming and can be itching in the ear, redness, and swelling in the ear, pain in the ear.


It usually occurs when water is present in the ear canal for a long time, creating an environment conducive to the growth of germs, and those in swimming pools are one of the most common causes of “swimmer’s ears.”



3. Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

Infection of the skin of the foot can be used by different fungi. The most common place is between the first and second toes, but it can affect any part of the foot. Often, there are cracks in the skin or red and spicy lesions.


It spreads by contact with infected skin or fungi in certain areas such as showers, changing rooms, swimming pools. It can be a chronic infection with frequent recurrences.


It is usually treated with creams on the skin, but sometimes with precise oral treatment is also given. Hygiene is very important for its prevention. Some of the prevention options are as follow:

  • Short and clean nails
  • Do not walk barefoot in showers and locker rooms
  • Those already affected should keep their feet clean, dry and cool. Wear sandals and avoid closed cotton shoes and socks to help with perspiration.



4. Dermatitis

Dermatitis can be caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a germ with a preference for wetlands. “Eruption” (pink spots that tend to cut) occurs after direct contact with contaminated skin a few days after bathing.


Symptoms: Itching may cause red and oedematous skin. It is also characterized by pustules in the hair follicles. Avoid taking wet swimsuit for a long time and wash it daily. A good disinfectant and a good pH of water management can prevent this dermatitis.



5. Eye itching, nasal irritation and/or shortness of breath

It is mainly produced in swimming pools and is caused by the use of irritants such as chloramines in water and air.



6. Molluscum contagiosum (pox-virus)

Several small superfluous skins with whitish lesions and if they are larger, they can be branched (with a small hole in the middle). They are very contagious, but not serious and much more common in children and in the upper trunk and extremities.



7. Vulgar warts (papillomavirus)

Up to 10% of swimmers are infected, especially in the feet. Preventing yourself from these infections by wearing shoes when you are not in the water is very important. The treatment is similar to molluscum and also with the application of salicylic acid creams.





These are the topmost and common recreational water illnesses. For these illnesses, you can simply cure them with precautions and awareness. Everybody loves water in summer but before taking swimming as the summer activity you should always know the consequences of recreational water illnesses.

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