Don't get sick at your favorite swimming hole

The things that grow in lakes, ponds that can make you ill

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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A hot, summer day may include a trip to the lake or a pond. If you're going for a swim,  The Centers for Disease Control would like to remind you to protect yourself against recreational water illnesses. Dr. Susan Rehm, who treats infectious diseases at Cleveland Clinic, says there are several illnesses you can get from swimming in contaminated freshwater lakes and ponds.

"The types of things you can see are diarrhea-illnesses, irritations of the skin, sometimes irritations of the eyes, nose, and mouth, as well," she explained.

Although most algal blooms are not harmful, blue-green algae may make you sick.
Rehm says algae, in general, is enriched by hot weather and farm runoff. The stillness of the water may also facilitate bacterial growth. She says many places are now testing for algae and for algae toxins, so you may see postings, or you can look for the signs of algae yourself.

"Seeing a sheen on the water, like a paint sheen on the water is potentially a sign that there is algae there," said Rehm.

Whenever you're swimming or boating in fresh water, you should also look for storm drains that may be pulling polluted water from streets. Rehm says to pay attention to bacteria levels in lakes and streams, especially on really hot days, and after heavy rainfall.

"If there is a storm, storm runoff can bring sewage and other pollutants into fresh water. And there are high concentrations there and of course, the warm weather does accelerate the growth of bacteria under those circumstances," she said.

Rehm says to decrease your risk of getting sick, avoid swallowing water while swimming, don't swim with an open cut or wound, and take a shower before and after.

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