Now that summer is here, many people look forward to getting in the water and going for a swim, splashing around with their kids in a pool, or simply floating around on a raft and listening to the summer breeze blow. No one wants to think about the millions of bacteria that live on the human body, not to mention what might be introduced into the water through fecal contamination.
But for aquatic professionals, we have to think about the bacteria – and specifically we have to think about how to prevent that bacteria from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs). I think working with a trained and certified pool operator (AquaTech, CPO, AFO, etc.) is the most important first step you can take to keep your facility clean and sanitary for the enjoyment of your patrons. The importance of proper training was reinforced by the recent study released by the CDC. In the 13 states reviewed, 1 in 8 pools had to be closed due to improper water sanitization and disinfectant levels. The most frequent violations occurred in child care, apartment/condo, and hotel/motel pools – aquatic facilities that usually do not have full-time certified operators on site.
But you can do even more to help prevent recreational water illness at your facility than monitor chemical levels and respond promptly to fecal incidents following CDC guidelines. You can actively work with patrons to make sure you’re helping them help you.
- To help parents get their children to the bathroom on a regular schedule, have hourly breaks during which you test the water for disinfectant. Make sure that your bathrooms are clean and stocked with toilet paper and ample soap for handwashing at all times, but particularly before these breaks.
- See that your diaper changing facilities are clean, safe, and convenient to parents; and educate parents that the pool deck is not a place to change diapers. I once watched a mother change her child’s diaper right by the side of a hotel pool, and then use a water spout to actually rinse the child’s backside into the pool!
- Stay in communication with your local health department and other aquatics facilities so you know when an outbreak of RWI occurs. That way, you’ll be able to take additional measures to protect your pool.
In addition to the points listed above, it’s helpful to have some signage to remind patrons of the important role they can play. The CDC recommends posting these six simple tips for preventing RWI:
- Don’t swim when you have diarrhea
- Don’t swallow the pool water
- Practice good hygiene
- Take your kids on bathroom breaks or change diapers often
- Change diapers in the bathroom and not at poolside
- Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming
Follow these tips, and hopefully you can put your thoughts of bacteria on the backburner while you watch your
patrons have a great time at your facility. There are also great resources available for patron education at www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.