For children, few pursuits rival the sheer exuberance of frolicking in cool, shimmering waters. Swimming, a pastime that conjures joy and vitality, has long been celebrated as a beacon of healthful recreation for children of all ages.
Yet, swimming may also come with health risks that can render your child sick, such as water-borne infections. These clandestine infections can transform the idyllic water scene into a nightmare of discomfort, inflicting diseases such as diarrhoea, skin rashes, and eye irritation upon unsuspecting swimmers.
Fortunately, you can take some simple measures to protect your child from water-borne infections before and after swimming, and we’ll be sharing them in this exposé. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Preventing Water-borne Infections
To forestall the onset of water-borne infections, the first line of defence involves erecting an impenetrable barrier, keeping the insidious germs at bay. If your child has been sick with water-borne illness in the past two weeks, you should keep them out of the water until they fully recover. This not only benefits them but limits the risk of other kids getting ill as well.
Secondly, you should teach your child not to swallow or spit water when they swim. Although ingesting water may seem harmless, it carries the pernicious risk of exposing them to gastrointestinal pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli, and norovirus. These malevolent entities have the potential to unleash a flurry of symptoms, including abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, and debilitating dehydration.
Further compounding the water infection menace is the grim reality that some microbial agents can endure the rigours of chlorinated waters for extended periods, rendering even treated pools and hot tubs as contagion hubs.
Therefore, if your little one wants to make use of a pool, or take kids swimming lessons, ensure you check the water quality before they swim. You can do this by looking for telling signs of proper maintenance and disinfection, such as clear water, no odour, and visible drain covers.
If you’re so inclined, you can also utilise test strips to check the water pH and chlorine or bromine levels. These chemicals constitute the guardians of public health, eradicating germs and hindering their propagation.
The prescribed levels for these chemicals are:
Chlorine: 1-3 parts per million (ppm)
Bromine: 3-5 ppm
If these chemical levels are too low or high, you should avoid swimming in such waters and report the issue to the operator or owner.
How To Recognise Water-Borne Infections
The very nature of water-borne infections ensures that symptoms may emerge in a spectrum depending on the type of germ and body part affected. Some indicative symptoms of select water-borne illnesses are shown in the table below.
Watery or bloody stools, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever
Discomfort or swelling in the outer ear canal
Eye redness, itching, or discharge
Coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
Redness, itching, bumps or blisters around hair follicles (folliculitis)
While some of these symptoms may appear within hours or days after swimming in contaminated water, others may take longer to develop or go unnoticed until the infection becomes too severe. Hence, if your child has any of these symptoms, you should contact your paediatrician or seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Water-borne infections are a potential risk for children who swim in recreational waters. However, they are not a reason to avoid swimming or swimming lessons altogether. Swimming is a fun and healthy activity that can benefit your child’s physical and mental well-being, as well as develop their athleticism and self-esteem.