Summertime's rising mercury brings the allure of refreshing swimming pools. But, before taking a dip, it's important to take proper precautions to avoid getting sick.
The city of Phoenix had to close all 21 of its public pools last summer because swimmers were getting sick. And, in order to avoid a similar fate this year, the city hired deck attendants for its public pools to make sure people shower and take bathroom breaks. Also, toddlers are required to wear swim diapers, which are available in vending machines.
It's all to avoid cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes cramping diarrhea, vomiting and fever that can last a couple of weeks.
The parasite can be costly, as Jenni Broomhead discovered when she threw a party at a public pool last year in Utah. She ended up spending thousands of dollars on hospital bills for children who came in contact with cryptosporidium.
"I had 18- and 19-year-olds tearing up, curled up on the floor for an entire day," she said at the time.
Already, some Frisco, Texas, pools were forced to close last week after two children defecated, which could contaminate the water.
"I'm glad they're doing the right thing and closing it down for the day and getting it cleaned up," swimmer Tiffany Weaver said.
Chlorine doesn't kill cryptosporidium. The parasite, which is called crypto for short, only has developed in the past couple decades. But the Centers for Disease Control says crypto cases have doubled in recent years.
Still, the thought of crypto doesn't have to ruin your pool plans. Some pools, for instance, are investing up to a quarter of a million dollars in equipment that kills crypto by hitting it with ultraviolet light.
Check out the tips below to learn how you can protect yourself.
Avoid swallowing pool water or getting it into your mouth
Do not swim if you have diarrhea
Take a thorough cleansing shower with soap before swimming
Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
Take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often
Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside, and thoroughly clean diaper-changing area
To learn more about how to keep your pool safe, visit healthyswimming.org.
Finally, hot tubs can breed bacteria, too. The most common one causes a skin rash called dermatitis that is itchy and tender. It usually goes away in a few days, without requiring a visit to the doctor.
Pool safety goes beyond sanitation.
The pool water should be clear, not cloudy and the tiles should not be slippery or slimy.
If you want to check up on your public pool and make sure it is properly chlorinated, you can buy chlorine test strips. Dip the strip in the water and, after a few seconds, it turns different colors to indicate whether the pool has proper chlorine and ph levels.
This is the first year that all public pools in the country are required to have devices in place to protect people from being sucked into the pool drain.
Eighty-three people have been entrapped in the past decade by pool drains that exert a suction so strong even strong grown men can't break free.
Not all pools have complied, some for budget reasons, so you need to ask whether your pool has taken the proper steps to protect you.
Another important note: 80 percent of drownings happen at home. But they can be prevented.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a layered safety approach for home pools, with pool covers, fences and alarms that alert you if somebody goes in the water.