We aren't telling you to not go swimming, but maybe you need to know that this is not your parents beach anymore.
"We found that when swimming in sub-tropical beach areas with no known pollution or contamination from sewage or runoff, you still have a chance of being exposed to the kind of microbes that can make you sick," said Dr. Lora Fleming, co-director of the Center for Oceans and Human Health (OHH) and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Miami. "This information is especially important to take into account for children and the elderly, or if you have a compromised immune system and are planning a beach outing."
Ocean swimmers are typically more concerned with getting stung by a jellyfish, stepping on something sharp, or the occasional tar ball. Having to be concerned with microbes may seem like too much. However, the numbers from the study do not lie.
The wet group was 1.76 times more likely to have some kind of gastrointestinal sickness. They were also 4.46 times more likely to report having a fever or respiratory illness. Plus the wet group was six times more likely to report a skin illness.
The microbes which caused these disorders were not linked to human-based sewage or runoff, but rather from natural environmental factors. Their prevalence can be linked to sunlight, rainfall, wave and current conditions, and above all, water temperature.
The researchers have made the following recommendations for beach-goers:
- Avoid getting sea water in your mouth
- Avoid swimming when sick or with open wounds
- Shower before and after swimming in the water
- Wash hands thoroughly before eating
- Bring kids to the restroom frequently while at the beach
Six Steps for Healthy Swimming
Following these healthy swimming steps will help to protect you, your family, and other swimmers from recreational water illnesses (RWIs): "Recreational Water Illness"
Three Steps for All Swimmers
Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs):
Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids
Keep germs out of the pool:
Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it's too late.
Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.
Below you will find additional resources, organized by audience group (swimmers and parents, aquatics staff, and public health professionals), to help you learn more about preventing RWIs.