Cool off with a swim, but keep health in mindWith humidity as high as it was last week, a dip in a cool swimming pool was the go-to solution for many people trying to escape the heat.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
With humidity as high as it was last week, a dip in a cool swimming pool was the go-to solution for many people trying to escape the heat.
So during a season when swimmers dive right in to the recreational activity, the Minnesota Department of Health reminds them to practice healthy behaviors to avoid and help prevent water illnesses.
On an especially steamy day, people might be anxious to jump straight in the pool, but the Department of Health recommends swimmers always shower with soap prior to entering the water.
"Germs on and in swimmers' bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick," Department of Health epidemiology supervisor Kirk Smith said in a statement. "Even healthy swimmers can get sick from recreational water, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk."
Other recommendations include washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and, if you're swimming with young children, changing diapers frequently - in the bathroom, not poolside.
Jamie Follstad, manager of Red Wing Water Park, adds another healthy behavior, one that is actually a rule at the local pool: Don't swim if you have open cuts or sores.
"If it's a deep abrasion that has a serious gash, then we suggest that they don't. Both for them and for the other swimmers," Follstad explained.
The addition of chlorine to pools helps kill much of the bacteria, but even with chlorination, illnesses can spread. MDH identified 23 swimming pool outbreaks from 2000 to 2010. Joined together with 15 beach outbreaks, they caused more than 900 illnesses.
The Department of Health cautions that symptoms of a recreational water illness may not be noticeable until a week or more after swimming - the most common one being diarrhea. The agency also reported that a parasite called cryptosporidium is chlorine-resistant, making healthy behaviors more important than ever when germ-killing chemicals can't be relied on.
Not just the pools
Pools aren't the only places people turn to in order to keep cool. Many opt for lakes and rivers, which also pose risks in terms of health.
When temperatures rise outdoors, water temperatures climb as well. A free-living ameba called naegleria fowleri thrives in water temps exceeding 86 degrees and causes an uncommon, but fatal, infection.
Though the infection - called primary amebic meningoencephalitis - is very rare, a case was confirmed in Minnesota as recently as a year ago.
"The risk of infection from naegleria in Minnesota is very low," Smith said.
"Swimming is a very healthy summertime activity and we do not want to discourage people from swimming. Rather, simply avoid swimming, diving or other activities in obviously stagnant water when temperatures are high and water levels are low."