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“Shower before swimming” signs at public pools are there for a reason

If you’ve ever visited a public pool or waterpark, you’ve probably seen signs in the locker rooms and entrances urging visitors to shower before entering the water. Those rules aren’t just to help patrons acclimate to being wet. They’re actually meant to keep everyone safe from getting sick with recreational water illnesses.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by swallowing or breathing in mists of contaminated water. Someone who has an RWI may have vomiting, diarrhea, strong abdominal cramps, and fever. Pool chemicals like chlorine are added to the water to kill germs, but they aren’t effective against all germs that cause RWIs. That’s why it’s important to shower off well before getting in the pool to remove illness-causing germs from your body and your children’s bodies.

In a 2011 NPCH Report, we asked parents of children age 5-12 how often they visit water parks and which water park rules they consider important. About 4 in 10 parents had taken their children to a water park in the past year, but only one quarter of those parents thought it was very important to have their children shower before getting into the water. Also, 28% of parents said preventing infections from water parks is the sole responsibility of the water park staff. Read the full report: Few parents enforce shower-before-pool rules that prevent illness from water parks.

To keep kids safe from water park illness, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend:

  • Staying out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before getting into the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Check and change diapers frequently in the designated diaper-changing area (not next to the pool).
  • Reapply sunscreen often.
  • Drink lots of fluids.

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/healthyswimming/.

What do you think?:
Do you enforce shower-before-swimming rules with your kids? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!