Many municipal swimming pools open on Memorial Day and state health officials say good personal hygiene can prevent water related illnesses. Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director, Patricia Quinlisk, says there are hundreds of cases of illness traced to water every year. She says all the trouble could be avoided.

“Swimming is relatively safe, but of course we can always make it safer. One of the things that sometimes happens is that people get an illness — often a diarrheal illness — in a pool or a spa or at the beach, after basically somebody has pooped in the water,” according to Quinlisk.

Dr. Quinlisk says there are some common sense things to avoid illness. “We just need to educate, particularly children, that if they have to go to the bathroom, they need to get out of the pool or onto the beach and go to a bathroom and do their business there. They shouldn’t be doing it in the water,” Quinlisk says.

Pools have signs asking patrons to shower before entering the pool. Dr. Quinlisk says that is an important step in preventing illness.

“We don’t realize it, but we do get some of that bacteria that’s normally in our stool on our skin. And if you got take a shower first and wash that off, then you’re not washing it off in the pool, you’re washing it off in the shower and it’s going down the drain,” Quinlisk explains.

She says most public pools do a good job of checking chlorine levels and the chlorine can take care of small amounts of bacteria that get into the water. Quinlisk says home pools can be a different story.

She says the “kiddie pools” that you fill up at home are different because there is no chlorine in that water to deal with the bacteria. Quinlisk says you can use some bleach in the water of a home pool to help get rid of some of the bacteria. She says it’s important to avoid swallowing the water you swim in the pool or at the lake to prevent any illness.

For more information go to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at: