CDC, Olympic Champion Team Up for Healthy Swimming

Amanda Beard and CDC encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves while swimming

CDC Amanda Beard Healthy Swimming Program

Olympic medalist and mom Amanda Beard and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are teaming up to encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their families and friends while swimming.

Swimming and other water-based exercise have many health benefits. However, if a swimmer brings feces into the pool by not showering before swimming or having diarrhea, the pool could be easily be contaminated with germs that cause illness. These germs can be spread when other swimmers swallow the contaminated water. A CDC study done in 2012 found evidence of fecal contamination in more than half (59%) of pools tested.

“It’s important for all swimmers to protect themselves by not swallowing the water they swim in and to protect their family and friends by keeping germs out of the pool by not swimming when ill with diarrhea,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. “Remember, chlorine and other disinfectants kill germs within minutes, not instantly.”

Beard agrees that everyone must do their part so we can all "swim healthy." “As a swimmer, it’s my responsibility to keep the water I share with others clean. As a mom, it’s important that I also make sure my kids do their part,” Beard said. “That means helping them follow the steps of healthy swimming.”

Beard also takes safety steps to prevent drowning, such as giving her now-3-year-old son swimming lessons at a young age. “Kids learn to swim for so many different reasons, but most importantly for safety,” she said.

CDC recommends that all swimmers take the following steps:

Keep feces and other contaminants out of the water:

  • Do not swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before you start swimming.
  • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
  • Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water:

  • Pools: Proper free chlorine (1 to 3 mg/L or ppm) and pH (7.2 to 7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power.
  • Most superstores, hardware stores and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.

Do not swallow the water you swim in.

CDC recommends that parents of young children also take the following steps:

  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area, not at poolside, where germs can rinse into the water.
  • Always supervise children when they are in or around water.

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