“Dr Linda, a friend told me about swimming pool diarrhea. Is it safe to take my 3 month old baby to a public swimming pool? “
Now that summer is here I get a lot of questions about the safety of taking young babies to swimming pools. As I was looking through my resources, I came upon this article in Time magazine that quoted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics from 2016 about the increasing incidence of Cryptosporidium diarrhea in children (and adults) using public swimming pools: The incidence of “swimming pool diarrhea” outbreaks doubled in the Unites States between 2014-2016, and has tripled since 2004! I am sharing this article with you as well as information you need to know about Cryptosporidium and swimming pool diarrhea, to keep you and your family healthy.
What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium is a parasite that infects the cells of the intestinal tract and causes them to be unable to absorb nutrients from food which causes diarrhea. Up to 30% infected people may have no symptoms, but can still spread the disease which is why hand washing is so very important, especially when you have babies and children in your home.
How is it spread?
It is spread by ingesting the eggs of the parasite which may come from:
- Contaminated water. Contaminated drinking water sources and swimming pools are the most common sources. Swallowing even a small amount of water when swimming can cause an infection because it only takes a few eggs to infect the intestinal tract.
- Contaminated food. Food prepared by someone who is infected and has not washed his hands after a bowel movement and before touching the food is how people transmit the infection.
- Contact with a person who has the infection. An infected adult who did not wash her hands after a bowel movement or after changing a diaper.
- Contact with the bowel movements of an infected baby as you change the diaper.
- Contact with infected animals like when you go to a petting zoo or a farm. Babies and children are more likely to get the infection because they may forget to wash their hands after touching an animal and before they eat.
After becoming infected it takes between 2-10 days on average for the symptoms to appear.
What are the most common symptoms?
- Upset tummy.
- Decreased appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Tummy aches and cramping.
The symptoms usually go away within 10-14 days without treatment but treatment is needed in some cases.
When to take your older baby and child to see the doctor:
- If your baby has more than 4 runny watery stools per day.
- Your baby is refusing to drink or eat.
- Has cramping or bad pain in his tummy.
- Has a fever.
- Your baby looks sick and is acting lethargic.
- There is blood or mucus in the stools.
- The symptoms have lasted more than 14 days.
Swimming Pool Diarrhea
“Dr. Linda, I took my 3-month-old to the swimming pool with her older sister last week. Now she has diarrhea and is refusing to drink.
What should I do?”
Take her to see her doctor as soon as possible.
Any baby less than 6 months old with the following symptoms should be seen as soon as possible by her doctor:
- Refusal to drink
- Temperature more than 100.4.
Keep in mind two facts about infants:
- The immune systems of young have not completely developed, so they are not as able to fight off infections as older babies.
- Because they are smaller and have fewer reserves younger babies and children can get dehydrated more quickly than older children.
10 Tips to Prevent Swimming Pool Diarrhea (Cryptosporidium):
- Hand washing after having a bowel movement and changing a diaper.
- Hand washing before you touch or prepare food.
- Hand washing after handling any raw food, especially meats.
- Hand washing after touching animals.
- Wear gloves to handle the bowel movements of your pets and then wash your hands after disposing of the bowel movement and taking the gloves off.
- Throw dirty diapers and pet bowel movements in firmly closed containers away from area where you prepare and eat food.
- If you live in an area where the drinking water is contaminated with Cryptosporidium boil your water for at least 1 minute at a rolling boil (3 minutes at higher altitudes of 6500 feet and above). After boiling it allow it to cool and then store it in the refrigerator.
- Do not drink water from lakes or streams.
- Avoid unpasteurized milk and foods made from it.
- For safe food handling see my article preparing homemade baby food.
More Tips: Cryptorporidium and Safe Swimming
- Avoid swimming pools during outbreaks.
- Do not take your young babies and children to the swimming pool.
- If you or your child have diarrhea do not go to the swimming pool.
- If you or your child has been diagnosed with Cryptosporidium do not go to the swimming pool until the diarrhea has been gone for at least 2 full weeks (14 days)
- Make sure you practice good hand washing practices after going to the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing food or eating.
Treatment of Swimming Pool Diarrhea
The best treatment is prevention!
I believe that an informed mother is a very powerful mother.
In cases that need treatment there is an antibiotic called Nitazoxanide (Alinia) that your doctor can prescribe.
Now that you have some basic information about Cryptosporidium, you can make informed decisions about how to keep your baby safe from this parasite … hoping this keeps your whole family safe from “swimming pool diarrhea” this pool season! Always consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Please post your comments or questions below.
To your Holistic health,