Recreational Water Illness (RWI)

The Facts

  • RWIs are caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim in.
  • RWIs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.
  • Diarrhea is the most common RWI.
  • Other common RWIs include skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections.

Kids swimming in a pool

Who it Affects

  • Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for RWIs.
  • People with a weakened immune system should consult their health care provider before participating in activities that place them at risk for illness.

Prevent RWIs

  • Keep germs, pee, and poop out of the water.
    • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
    • Shower before you swim.
    • Take bathroom breaks or check diapers at least once an hour.
    • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
    • Don’t swallow pool water.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
    • Proper free chlorine levels is at least 3 ppm in hot tubs/spas and at least 1 ppm in pools and water playgrounds.
    • Proper pH level in pools is 7.2-7.8.

If You Get Sick

  • See your health care provider.