Okay, folks, this really should go without saying, but please, please, for the love of all that is holy and decent, don’t get into a pool if you’ve recently had diarrhea. Same goes for vomiting. I mean, really, how about not getting into the pool (or going into public at all) if anything liquid has been spewing out any of your orifices in the not-so-distant past?
I don’t mean to get graphic and disgusting here, but I’m trying to drive home a point that seems obvious to most people, but which is somehow totally lost on others.
The CDC recently released a reminder (which they apparently have to put out every year because some people just. don’t. get. it) about this very topic, just in time for the summer season. As part of their weekly “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” (um, creepy title, don’t you think?), they warn the public that there has been a recent uptick in cases of cryptosporidium, which is a yucky parasite that can spread in pool water contaminated with infected poop.
There were at least 32 cases of cryptosporidium (often referred to as Crypto) at pools or water playgrounds in 2016, up from 16 in 2014, and about the same number in 2012 and 2013. In other words, the cases of Crypto have basically doubled as of last year. And although these numbers may be small, the Crypto parasite is not something anyone should mess around with.
Cryptosporidium sounds even more awful than your average stomach bug (which is saying a lot because stomach bugs are the absolute worst). Crypto can make you sick with diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting for up to three whole weeks. Additionally, it can lead to really bad cases of dehydration, which is especially scary for our youngest kiddos and elderly folks.
One of the problems with cryptosporidium is that it isn’t easily killed by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days even in water that has been properly treated (hearty little bastards!). And it only takes one mouthful of contaminated pool water to get sick.
Now, I know not everyone gets into the pool with the intent to drink the water, but anyone who has kids knows there is no way to stop this kind of thing from happening, at least sometimes. And honestly, it’s not our responsibility to take every precaution to make sure our kids don’t gulp someone’s diarrhea when they go for a dip in a public pool. The burden is on each and every one of us to have the common decency not to bring sick kids to public places like pools.
The CDC has some more Captain Obvious of tips for all pool-goers this summer. These include not freaking going into the pool if you’ve recently had diarrhea; making sure you wait at least two weeks before swimming if you’ve been infected with Crypto; showering before getting into the water to remove all possible germs; giving your kids frequent bathroom breaks; and making sure you check and double-check your kids’ swim diapers for poop.
Now, before you swear off pools altogether this summer (and in researching and writing this, I’m getting pretty close to doing that myself), remember that properly treated pools kill most germs and are generally safe. But also keep in mind that not all pools are properly cleaned or maintained, and not all of your fellow humans take proper cleanliness precautions. And as for lakes and other non-chlorinated water, all bets are off, my friends: Enter at your own risk.
The good news is that I’m pretty sure most of us would not bring our puking/diarrhea selves or kids into a body of water filled with other humans. So outbreaks of nasty bugs in pools and other bodies of water tend to be on the somewhat rare side. Really, we shouldn’t spend our summers worrying about things like this. We should try our best to enjoy all the opportunities for fun in the water that we can.
However, I don’t think I’m ever going to get the image of a diarrhea-contaminated pool out of my head, at least not for a good, long while.
And listen up: I know that sometimes shit happens (literally) and you had no idea you or your kid weren’t feeling well when you entered the pool grounds. I guess I’ll give you a break if that was truly the case.
But to anyone out there who thinks for one second that it is remotely okay to take a dip in a public pool after having diarrhea that day, or even a day or two ago, I hope we never meet. And I sure as hell better not see your poop-face at my local pool this summer.