KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Area pools, lakes and rivers are packed with people having fun in the sun. However, there are some germs and chemicals found in water, which can make you sick. Dr. Katy Stordahl from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital talks to WATE 6 On Your Side about recreational water illnesses and how you can prevent them.

How do recreational water illnesses spread? 

RWIs are swallowed or breathed in. Children are more susceptible because they often swallow the germs in the water or breathe in the mists or aerosols from chemicals.

Types of recreational water illness 

Recreational water illnesses are gastrointestinal and can upset the stomach causing pain, vomiting and, most often, diarrhea. Infections of the skin, ear, respiratory tract, eyes and wounds are also possible. Germs like cryptosporidium (or crypto), norovirus and E. coli cause RWIs.

Where are RWIs found?

Pools, water parks, water play areas. Swimmers share the water and germs in it with every person who enters. Pool chemicals kill most germs within minutes, but some live for days.

Hot tubs. Skin infections like “hot tub rash” are common. The high water temp in most hot tubs make it hard to maintain the disinfectant levels needed to kill germs.

Decorative water fountains. Not all fountains are chlorinated or filtered. Allowing diaper-aged children to play in this water, which is recycled, can quickly spread germs.

Oceans, lakes, and rivers. These large bodies of water can be contaminated with germs from animal and human waste or water runoff following rainfall and sewage spills.

Prevention tips 

  • Stay out of water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before you get in the water.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks and don’t have a child in a diaper in the pool.
  • Maintain proper chlorine and PH levels in pools.