Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming

from the CDC

Awareness, Action, Advocacy

Crowded wavepool with swimmers and inner tubes.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs 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. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.

Swimmers have an essential role in helping to protect themselves, their families, and others from RWIs. The Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming were created to provide swimmers with the tools they need to be activist swimmers and take the lead in preventing RWIs at their swimming facility. Follow the steps below to ensure that your swimming experience is healthy, and RWI-free!


1. Awareness


Three Steps for All Swimmers

Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses (RWIs):

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Don’t swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids

Keep germs out of the pool:

  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s too late.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.


2. Action


  • Check pool water yourself using test strips purchased at your local hardware or pool supply store. CDC recommends the following water quality ranges:
    • Free chlorine level 1–3 parts per million (ppm)
    • pH 7.2–7.8
  • Ask the pool operator the following questions:
    • Are the free chlorine and pH levels checked at least 2 times per day and more often when the pool is heavily used?
    • What is the latest pool inspection score?
    • Has he/she completed specialized training in pool operation?


3. Advocacy


  • Encourage pool operators to take steps known to kill germs.
    • Add ultraviolet or ozone technology to pool water treatment.
    • Hyperchlorinate regularly; not even the toughest germs (like Crypto) can tolerate free chlorine levels at 20 ppm for 12.75 hours.
  • Educate other swimmers about RWIs to promote healthy swimming.


To learn more about the importance of following the Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming, read the CDC report on common pool inspection violations.

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