Don’t let swimming pools make you sick

Protect yourself from recreational water illnesses by remembering to swim your LAAPS!

Preventing Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) is a multifaceted issue that requires participation from pool staff, swimmers, and health departments. Poor maintenance can result in low disinfectant levels that can allow the spread of a variety of germs that cause diarrhea as well as skin and respiratory RWIs.


Although pool staff alone cannot completely stop these complex problems, they play a key role in assuring the health of pool visitors. By following a few simple steps, aquatic managers and staff can lead the way.

Look… at the pool and surroundings. What should you notice?
  • Clean and clear pool water; you should be able to clearly see any painted stripes and the bottom of the pool.
  • Smooth pool sides; tiles should not be sticky or slippery.
  • No odor; a well-chlorinated pool has little odor. A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
  • Pool equipment working; pool pumps and filtration systems make noise and you should hear them running.
Ask… questions of the pool staff.
  • What specialized training did the staff take to prepare for working at or operating the pool?
  • Are chlorine and pH levels checked at least twice per day?
  • Are these levels checked during times when the pool is most heavily used?
  • Are trained operation staff available during the weekends when the pool is most heavily used?
  • What was the health inspector’s grade for the pool after its last inspection?
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Act… by being proactive and educating others.
  • Learn about recreational water illnesses and educate other users and your pool operator.
  • Urge your pool management to spread the word about RWIs to pool staff and pool users.
  • Let your pool operator know that the health and well being of all swimmers is a priority for you.
  • Check the pool water yourself for adequate free chlorine (1-3 parts per million) and pH (7.2-7.8) levels. Pool and spa chlorine test strips are available at local home improvement stores, discount retailers and pool supply stores. If you want to practice using them at home, visit the page on pool and spa test strips home test instructions.
Practice… healthy swimming behaviors.
  • Refrain from swimming when you have diarrhea.
  • Avoid swallowing pool water or even getting it in your mouth.
  • Shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside and thoroughly clean the diaper changing area.
Safety… is always important.
  • Keep an eye on children at all times, kids can drown in seconds and in silence.
  • Don’t use air-filled swimming aids (such as “water wings”) with children in place of life jackets or life preservers.
  • Protect against sunburn by using a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and both UVA and UVB protection, and be sure to re-apply it after swimming.
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