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Dr. Magryta: Common sense swimming

Summer is rapidly approaching and everyone likes to swim. This means that parents need to be attuned to safety and security for their little guppies.

Infections in pools are unfortunately all too common. Chlorine kills most germs, but cannot kill Cryptosporidium that accounts for more than 50% of outbreaks in an average year.

This happens when young children, especially toddlers, enter a swimming pool and leak loose stool into the water while they are infected.

Other bacteria, like eschericia coli and salmonella, are chlorine sensitive. This implies then that the pool did not have adequate chlorination to kill the pathogens if you get sick after swimming.

Chlorine is inactivated by heat and the sun, making kiddie pools especially risky for transmission.

Simple rules to follow:

1) Do not have a child swim if they have had diarrhea in the past WEEK. The asymptomatic previously infected child can shed the organism for up to a week post last diarrheal stool.

2) Have toddlers and infants shower before swimming. Wash the peri-rectal area carefully.

3) Take frequent bathroom breaks and check for fecal matter.

4) Teach your kids not to drink the pool water. Not good from a chemical ingestion perspective or a pathogen.

Finally, drowning is far to common in young toddlers and children. With the modern distracted parent holding a cell phone, kids are at greater risk then ever to drown. If you bring your child to a pool to enjoy the beauty of swimming, keep all distractions in a bag and in silent mode while swimming.

What about lake swimming? 

Lake swimming poses a few wrinkles that are different from pool swimming. The lakes of the south are opaque, making it difficult to see a child underwater if they are in trouble.

Therefore, I recommend that all young children swim with a weight class appropriate life vest that can hold their weight.

Be aware of docks and ladders that are electrified. Make sure that they have a GFI in place to short the circuit in case the electricity hits the water. A few children die every year from lake swimming and electrocution. [https://www.westmarine.com/WestAdvisor/ELCI%20-GFCI-Electrical-Shock-Protection]

Lakes are often fed by rivers which can be polluted by industry or sewage spills. Be aware of your local water quality. [http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/News/news/waterqualityfacts]

Avoid swimming in lakes that have a film of green or blueish algae on them.

Be careful for glass and metal on lake beds. Teenagers often party near lakes and throw bottles into the shallow water. Consider having your children wear water shoes or stay in the deeper water.

Encourage your children to not drink the water. Oral ingestion is the fastest route to toxicity if there is contamination with chemicals or bacteria. This is likely the number one route of infection.

By all means, swim! Just practice some simple safety rules.

Finally, if you are exposed to toxic or infectious substances from a lake or pool, having a robust and healthy immune/detoxification system before the exposure can mitigate much of the risk. The way to maintain these systems is through frequent consumption of organic vegetables and fruits that are loaded with chemicals that enhance our detox and immune system’s function.

Dr. Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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