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Don’t let lake, river recreational illness put a damper on summer fun :

April 14, 2017

Warmer days are coming. For many families that means it’s a perfect time to go swimming or boating in a nearby lake or river.

Before you dip your toe, check the health of the water. Young children, those with weak immune systems and pregnant women can be at greater risk of getting sick from some water illnesses. Watch for the following:

  • Diarrheal illnesses caused by norovirus, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Shigella and Escherichia coli can be spread when children swallow lake water that is polluted with feces. Children and adults should avoid swimming if they have diarrhea, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Follow home care advice or seek medical treatment if necessary ( Before visiting a beach, check for community health advisories (
  • Swimmer’s itch is caused by parasites found in snails in lakes. The tiny germs can cause an allergic rash when they burrow into skin. Symptoms appear within two hours and include itchy, tingling or burning skin and sometimes small red pimples or blisters. The rash usually disappears within two weeks. Use an anti-itch lotion and cool compresses to relieve symptoms (
  • The germ that causes hot tub rash is common in hot tubs but also can be found in lakes. The Pseudomonas aeruginosa germ causes a rash and blisters. It usually clears up on its own. The same germ also can cause swimmer’s ear, an infection that is treated with ear drops (
  • Leptospirosis infects about 100 to 200 people who canoe or swim in rivers and lakes each year. Bacteria enter through cuts or the nose or mouth. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle soreness in the calves and back, red eyes, stomachache and a rash over the shins. The illness is treated with antibiotics (
  • A rare illness caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is found in warm freshwater lakes. It affects swimmers by attacking the brain when it travels up the nose. Parents can remind children to plug their noses when they jump or dive into the water to avoid getting lake water up their noses. Symptoms include fever, nausea, headache, stiff neck, seizures and death. Only three people have survived out of 138 infected since 1962, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Find more AAP water safety tips at

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