Sub-Tropical Beaches and Illness

A swim at the beach could put you at increased risk of illness even if that beach has no known source of pollution or contamination.
That’s the conclusion of a year long study of sub-tropical beaches by a team of University of Miami researchers. They divided 1,300 volunteers into two groups: one went into the water, one stayed out. Those who went in were asked to dunk themselves completely three times over a fifteen-minute period.

The study found that the swimmers were nearly twice as likely to report a gastrointestinal illness, and 4 and a half times more likely to get a fever or respiratory illness. Swimmers were also nearly six times more prone to skin illness. So the team has a list of tips for a healthy visit to the beach:

• Avoiding getting water in your mouth, or swallowing it.
• Don’t swim when you have flu-like symptoms, diarrhea or open wounds.
• Shower before and after you go in the water.
• Wash your hands with soap before eating.
• Take small children to the restroom frequently, while on a public beach.
The researchers figure microbes that can make you sick persist because of water temperature, sunlight, rainfall, currents, and wave conditions.

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