As the weather heats up in Sacramento County, residents will be heading to the water to cool off. Whether it’s our lakes and rivers, or a public swimming pool or water park, you should be aware of healthy swimming behaviors.
Swimming is fun and has great healthful benefits from the physical activity, but it is important to know that the water we swim in is rarely germ-free. Every natural water body can be a conduit for pollution, trash, bacteria, algae and microorganisms, and even when swimming pool chemicals are well maintained, bacteria and microorganisms can still be present.
Know How to Enjoy Public Waterways
Throughout the heat of summer, the water flows will begin to slow and warm in our lakes, streams and rivers – this creates prime conditions for the development of potentially harmful bacteria, algae and microorganisms.
Sacramento County Public Health
and Environmental Management
advises the public and pet owners to stay away from water with foam, scum or mats – which indicates an algae bloom. Naturally occurring algae bacteria can be toxic and can be green, blue-green, white or brown. If toxic algae touches skin or is accidentally inhaled or swallowed by people, pets or livestock, it can cause rash, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), and in large quantities, cause neurological or liver damage and lead to death. Reactions can occur within a few hours to days after exposure. Medical treatment should be sought if any person, pet or livestock is suspected of having been poisoned by algae toxins. Learn more about harmful algae blooms by visiting the My Water Quality website
Because bacteria, algae and microorganisms can be present, anyone enjoying public waterways should always follow healthy swimming habits:
- Avoid algae blooms (brightly colored water), scum layers, large mats and trash in the water.
- Do not drink recreational water (lakes, rivers, streams, swimming pools) or use the water for cooking.
- Do not enter the water if you have cuts or open sores, as these are pathways for bacteria to enter your body.
- Wash your hands and shower after swimming.
- Pay attention and follow any warning signs and postings. Do not access a water body if posted warnings indicate it is not safe to do so.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you have concerns regarding your health after swimming in recreational waters.
- Wear a life vest:
- Life Looks Good On You—and so does a life vest! Before you dive in, put on a life vest. There are borrowing stations along Sacramento’s waterways and at local fire stations. Remember, even the strongest swimmer can be pulled under by the strong river currents.
- Kids Don’t Float—but life vests do. Make sure your child wears a life vest. Sacramento County ordinance requires any child under 13 to wear a life vest before accessing any public waters (Sacramento County Ordinance 13.08.301). Bring a life vest to the river for each of your children.
Stay Healthy this Pool Season
Have you ever been to a pool and gotten a whiff of a strong chemical smell, and thought, “Wow, there’s a lot of chlorine in that pool?” It’s actually the result of organic matter such as dirt, sweat, urine or worse that reacts with the chlorine and reduces its effectiveness to kill germs.
Even when the concentration of pool chemicals is well maintained, germs aren’t instantly killed and every year there are illness outbreaks related to recreational water.
Protect the health of you, your family and friends with a few steps to keep germs out of the pool:
- Stay out of the water if you feel ill.
- Shower before you get in the water.
- Every hour—everyone out! Take frequent bathroom breaks.
- Don’t swallow the water.
Division Chief, Kelly McCoy, from the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department (EMD)
said, “The County’s Environmental Health Division is responsible for the enforcement of state and local health codes and provides permits and yearly inspection for more than 2,200 public, commercial and multi-family residence pools, spas and waterparks throughout Sacramento County.”
To find a public pool, spray-park, or swim lessons, check out the website that has a collection of park information in the County: Your Sacramento Area Parks
So, before you head to our lakes and rivers, jump into the pool, splash at a water park or hop into that hot tub, be sure to make a healthy splash that shares the fun and not the germs.