With swimming pool season near, EGLE provides tips to protect against illness

Date:  May 26, 2021  
Time: All Day Event

Boy wearing goggles in swimming pool.

The weather is getting warmer, and the season for recreational swimming will soon be upon us. Taking sensible precautions -- particularly in the era of COVID-19 -- can help ensure a safe and healthy swimming environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect both staff and patrons of aquatic venues.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) regulates public swimming pools in Michigan through the issuance of construction permits and annual operating licenses.

One facet of EGLE's Public Swimming Pools Program places emphasis on swimmer hygiene and the need for swimmers to take an active role in helping to protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs. EGLE promotes the use of CDC guidance along with the MDHHS Epidemic Order (EO) dated May 6 -- Gatherings and Face Mask Order -- which limits bather capacity of indoor pools to 30% of full capacity and outdoor pools to 50% of full capacity with water parks still closed at this time. These limits are subject to change with EO revisions and can be found on the coronavirus website.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water playgrounds/interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Water can be contaminated by microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or protozoa and cause a wide variety of gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. Common pathogens causing gastrointestinal illnesses include Cryptosporidium (Crypto), Giardia, Norovirus, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7. In addition, bacteria such as Pseudomonas, Legionella, and MRSA (type of Staphylococcus) can cause skin and lung diseases.

EGLE suggests some tips swimmers can take to help protect themselves, their friends, and their family this summer and year-round from both RWIs and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are feeling sick. Do not swim or let your kids swim when sick with diarrhea.
  • Wear a face mask when not in the water.
  • Maintain 6 feet of spacing between non-family members.
  • Practice hand hygiene with proper hand washing or hand sanitizer.
  • Do not swallow the water.
  • Do your own mini-inspection of the pool: clear water (should be able to clearly see the drains on the pool bottom), overall cleanliness both in the pool and on the deck, enclosure should not smell of strong chlorine.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
  • Check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area-not waterside-to keep germs away from the water.
  • Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just one minute helps get rid of most stuff that might be on swimmer's body.

The spread of RWIs and COVID-19 can be greatly reduced if all swimmers take an active role by following these simple steps. If you have any questions, please contact Karen Beauchamp, Swimming Pools Engineer Specialist, at 906-235-5113 or BeauchampK1@Michigan.gov.

Photo caption: Boy wearing goggles in swimming pool.

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