By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Slather on sunscreen, shower before swimming, experts say
0525SWIM HEALTH 0005
The pool water at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center and J.A. Walters YMCA is checked every hour to ensure proper chemical levels that sanitize the water and prevent the spread of bacteria and recreational water illnesses. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines

Keep the pee, poop, sweat and germs out of the pool by:

  • Staying out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Showering before you get in the water.
  • Not peeing or pooping in the water.
  • Not swallowing the water.

Everyone out every hour

  • Take children on bathroom breaks.
  • Check diapers and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area — not poolside — to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Reapply sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

With Memorial Day sparking summer fun and the Georgia heat on the rise, many will search for fun ways to cool off including pools, lakes, rivers and splash pads.

But before heading into the water, certain precautions should be taken to protect all from everything from  sunburns to sickness.

With skin cancer being one of the more common cancers, the American Cancer society encourages those heading out to the sun to slip, slop, slap and wrap. That means to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher, slap on a hat and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes.

“Sunscreen is a backup strategy to wearing the hat and shirts,” said Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

The doctor explained sun exposure can cause skin aging, which appears in the form of sunspots.

“And a tan is an indicator of damage of the skin,” he said, adding it is more crucial for children to protect the body’s largest organ. “As a child, sunburns are what cause problems later in life.”

But sunburns are not the only preventable dangers in and around water recreation areas. Other swimming risks include gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurological and wound infections.

“Recreational water illnesses can be caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water playgrounds, lakes, rivers or oceans,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Having issues with a recreational water illness outbreak last year, Cathy Padgett, public information coordinator at Athens-Clarke County leisure services, said anyone who has been sick needs to refrain from swimming.

“It is a public place,” she said. “If you are sick you need to think as if it is school or work.”

The CDC states “these germs — sometimes millions at a time — can spread when someone who is sick has diarrhea in the water. Other people can get sick if they swallow the germy water — even just a mouthful.”

With five public pools and splash pads open to the public on Memorial Day weekend, Padgett looks to prevent another outbreak from happening.

Athens-Clarke County facilities has information at the entrances to their water areas and has posted signs to ensure visitors understand the importance of safe swimming.

“They are there to remind parents and visitors if you are not well you don’t need to go the pool or splash pads,” Padgett said.

Trying to inform the public of safety procedures, pools at the J.A. Walters YMCA and Francis Meadows Aquatic Center have signs and pamphlets with regulations the public needs to follow in order for everyone to have a safe swimming experience.

“We have rules,” J.A. Walters YMCA Executive Director Greg Supianoski said. “If your child is vomiting or (has) diarrhea, they don’t need to be brought in the pool.”

Two certified pool operators follow procedures to ensure the pool area is as safe as it can be.

“We are checking those pool chemicals every hour to make sure there are no fluctuations, change, variations because that is going to be our best defense against any illness,” Supianoski said.

Practicing the same procedures, Meghan Modisette of Francis Meadows said the pool chemicals are checked every two hours to make sure the chemicals are inline with the health department.

“If for some reason we do have a swim contamination, we will close the pool,” Modisette said. “We do a cycling/turnover of the water and then we will be able to open up the pool again.”

For added protection, Francis Meadows mandates children 3 years old and younger not only wear diaper swimmers, but plastic pants as well to prevent pee or poop from getting in the water.

Recreational water illnesses do not only occur in pools, but people can catch them in lakes and rivers.

Some beaches on Lake Lanier have to be closed if the area is too polluted.

Timothy Rainey, operation project manager at Corps of Engineers, said during recreation season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, testing for bacteria is conducted once a month.

“If there is a holiday coming up, we will do testing prior to that weekend,” Rainey said.

Closing down a beach is the least of Rainey’s worries when it comes to the lake.

“Be careful, wear a lifejacket,” he added. “The biggest illness is drowning.”