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Recreational Water Illness

Our goal is to highlight the importance of healthy swimming habits recreational waters in New Mexico include swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, hot springs, lakes and rivers to prevent Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI).

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What are Recreational Water Illnesses?

There are many types of illnesses that people can get from recreational waters; the most common reported RWI is diarrhea caused by pathogens such as Cryptosporidium (Crypto), Escherichia coli O157:H7, Giardia and Shigella. Other RWI's seen in New Mexico include Hot Tub Rash, Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever Information, Swimmer's Ear and Swimmer's Itch.

What is Crypto?

Crypto is a germ that causes diarrhea. Crypto, short for Cryptosporidium, is found in infected people’s stool and cannot be seen by the naked eye. This germ is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive for long periods of time and makes it resistant to chlorine disinfection found in pools.


Healthy Swimming is No Accident

Healthy swimming expert Michael Beach warns about the superbug Crypto that causes the most common recreational water illness and suggests that anyone with diarrhea should stay out of the water. The video explains that though we use chlorine to kill germs and protect our health, Crypto can survive for days in chlorinated water.

In the Swim of Things

Though swimming is a popular sports activity with may health benefits, swimming-related illness in the US is on the rise. In a fun-filled reminder, experts show you how to keep your family healthy and safe when you get in the swim of things this summer. The main culprit is a chlorine-resistant parasite known as Crypto.

How Do I Protect Myself and My Family?

Knowing how you can get sick when swimming and having healthy swimming habits play important roles in stopping the spread of illness through water. Germs on and in swimmers’ bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick. Even healthy swimmers can get sick from recreational waters, but the young, elderly, pregnant women and immunosuppressed persons are especially at risk.

Before you enjoy your favorite water sport, keep these water illness tips in mind:

  • Do NOT swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Do NOT swim for 2 weeks after diarrhea stops.
  • Do NOT swallow pool water or get pool water or other types of untreated water, such as lake water or river water, in your mouth.
  • Shower well with soap and water before swimming (Children too!).
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks and change diapers often away from the pool.
  • Change children’s diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside.
  • Shower off and towel dry after getting out of lakes and rivers to avoid rashes.
  • Bathe and wipe down pets who have jumped or played in recreational waters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Knowing the basic facts about recreational water illnesses can make the difference.

Knowing the basic facts about Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI) can make the difference between an enjoyable time at the pool, beach, or water park, and getting a rash, having diarrhea, or developing other, potentially serious illnesses.

Please take a moment to read this Healthy Swimming FAQ for help learning more about how to stay healthy!


This is the Water Sample Collection Protocol recommended for disinfecting swimming pool water that has been contaminated. Depending on the type of contamination, procedures should be followed to protect public and facility staff from infection or illness.