Recreational water illnesses for fun
Being spring break where I have the little F’ers for a week, I decided to take the four of them to the neighboring water park. Oh how I love the smell of chlorine (not really). It at least gives me the (probably) false sense of security that everything is being disinfected. Aside from one of the little F’ers farting on the way there, and me worrying that they had contracted salmonella from my fried matzah the day before, the trip was a pretty good success. Nonetheless, water parks (or any parks where there are lots of kids around) make me think disease.
Fortunately, the CDC is my friend once again, having compiled a “portal” on Recreational Water Illnesses or RWI. RWI is a term I had never heard prior to Googling “water parks and disease” or some similar search combination. As I suspected, water parks are a source of disease for several bodily systems including GI, skin, ears, eyes, respiratory, neurological, and wound infections. Diarrhea is the most common symptom, with the usual culprits including Crypto, short for Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli O157:H7. As I have a horrible memory for bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents, I’ll just remember that water parks = infection.
Reading through the CDC is a hoot. I just want to know who is responsible for the research that led to their statement: “On average, people have about 0.14 grams of feces on their bottoms which, when rinsed off, can contaminate recreational water.” I mean – did some poor graduate student really get stuck measuring fecal remnants on people’s undies? Wow. I thought my medical experience was rough. Clearly there are plenty of people who had it much worse.
Although this does remind me of one of my classmates who loved infectious disease studies so much he went to Thailand to study shigella as a medical student. Studying shigella in Thailand as a medical student means you go from public toilet to public toilet collecting samples. Interestingly, I think he’s now an oncologist.
At least it seems that chlorine does kill most of the germs that cause water park illnesses, but it can take up to an hour for chlorine to work. And even then, there are some nasty bugs like Crypto that can live for days in properly maintained pools.
The CDC does offer the Six steps to healthy swimming most of which seems like common sense – not to swim when you’ve got the runs, not to swallow the water, shower and wash your hands before going in the water, and making sure your kids are clean, etc. At least I didn’t swallow any big gulps of water, but little F’er #3 did get a bunch up her nose when trying to do a back flip under water.
The chlorine levels seemed pretty high though. It was enough that when we walked into the water park, all of us noticed our eyes burning. I suppose that should give me a little sense of relief.
And Hot Tubs seem to be a bit more at risk as chlorine evaporates more quickly from the hot water. Hot Tub Rash seems to be a particularly common malady.
Overall, the fun of the park seems to outweigh the risks of serious disease. It was a great time, and I don’t want the little F’ers to learn agoraphobic behavior from me. Staying clean, yes; but hopefully not the hypochondriasis.