Getting sick from swimming should be the last thing on your mind when you head to the beach for a day of fun.
However, getting a waterborne illness from swimming in contaminated waters is all too common. Although you’re actually more likely to get sick from swimming in a pool than a beach, you can still get sick from rivers, swimming holes, ponds, lakes, oceans, and other wild waters.
Your local waters can become contaminated for a number of reasons. They can be contaminated by combined sewer overflows, runoff, blue-green algae blooms, plastic pollution, and more.
Contaminants such as bacteria, parasites, viruses, chemicals, pathogens, pollutants from sewage, human and animal faeces, urban or agricultural runoff, and other pollution can all end up in natural waterbodies.
Recreational water illnesses occur when you come into contact with contaminated water. Recreational water illnesses can lead to gastrointestinal infections, eye, ear, and nose infections, rashes, or respiratory illnesses.
Enteric illness is the most frequent outcome of recreating in contaminated water. Enteric illness causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. More rare (but serious) outcomes from coming in contact with heavily polluted waters include typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and dysentery.
Certain water activities put you at a higher risk of illness or infection that others. The more contact you have with contaminated water, the greater your risk of getting sick.
Primary contact activities (like swimming, surfing, or water skiing) are high risk, though you can still become sick from secondary contact activities (like fishing or sailing).
If you swim in a natural waterbody, you have an estimated 3%-8% average chance of getting sick. Every year, an estimated 3.5 million Americans and 400,000 Canadians get sick from swimming in contaminated water.
Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of waterborne illnesses. Higher concentrations of contaminants in the water and more extensive contact with the water increase your risk of contracting a waterborne illness.
Recreational water quality standards were established to protect people from waterborne illnesses. These standards determine how much of a contaminant can be in the water before it becomes an unacceptable risk to people or the environment.
Like the weather, water quality changes all the time. That’s why sampling and testing water is such a crucial part of protecting human health.
Swim Guide lets you know where and when the water is contaminated or clean to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to go swimming. With so many inviting and pristine beaches to swim at, you don’t need to settle for getting sick. With Swim Guide, you can find the cleanest, best local beaches so that you can swim without worry.
Checking water quality information on Swim Guide is the best way to prevent waterborne illnesses. Visit your favourite beach on Swim Guide to learn your local water quality standards, what your waters are tested for, and more about the watershed that you live in.
Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs at the beach or advisories from official government agencies. Stay alert and check for other swimming hazards such as dangerous currents and tides. Please report your pollution concerns so Affiliates can help keep other beach-goers safe. Swim Guide, "Swim Drink Fish icons," and associated trademarks are owned by SWIM DRINK FISH CANADA.| See Legal.
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