Michele Samarya-Timm, guest barfblogger: Poop and pools do not mix

With Memorial Day on the horizon, people are gearing up for summer fun.  As the weather warms, people are anxious to start partaking of warm weather activities, including jumping into the nearest swimming pool. 

Before making that splash into swimming pool waters, we all need to be advocates for a splash of a different kind….the sudsing, scrub and splash of good handwashing…and we all need to make this an essential component of recreational water activities.

Outbreaks from recreational water are more common than we would like, and are especially more common than the average swimmer realizes.    Trace amounts of fecal bacteria can be carried into the pool by our hands as well as by our bottoms.  Chlorine kills germs, but it doesn’t work right away – it takes time.  In fact, without good hygiene practices, even the best-maintained pools can spread illness.  Poop and pools do not mix.

Standard signage at public pools often includes the rule:  “Shower before entering.”  Shouldn’t we also include the rule:  “Wash hands before entering pool?”    Good handwashing practices help prevent so many outbreaks, and we need to keep reinforcing the need to make handwashing as much a part of our daily lives as eating, sleeping, and –yes – having fun in our swimming pools.

Think healthy.  Be healthy.  Wash your hands!

May 19-25 is Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week 2008.  You can find additional information at www.healthyswimming.org

Michéle Samarya-Timm is a Health Educator for the Franklin Township Health Department in New Jersey.