Risks of Swimming in Polluted Water

Gastroenteritis is the most common illness associated with swimming in polluted water. Gastroenteritis occurs in a variety of forms that may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • chills
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ache
  • head ache
  • fever
Other minor illnesses can result from swimming in polluted water include diseases affecting the eye, ear, skin, and upper respiratory infections.

In highly polluted water swimmers may be exposed to more serious diseases like amoebic dysentery, cholera, giardiasis, Hepatitis A, intestinal parasites, Norwalk Virus, shigellosis, viral gastroenteritis, and viral respiratory infections.

Small children, infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infection after swimming in polluted water. However, swimming related illnesses are typically minor. If you think you have a swimming related illness, consult your healthcare provider.

Do you think you've ever gotten sick from swimming?

If the answer is yes, call 311. You can submit an online compalint about a beach or pool. To learn more about illness from water recreation facilities visit Recreational Water Illness and Prevention.

How can I reduce my chances of becoming ill?

  • Be aware of advisories and closures and avoid swimming in those areas.
  • Do not swim or allow children to play in stormdrains/stormwater (visible runoff).
  • Avoid swimming at beaches during and after rainfall.
  • Avoid submerging your head.
  • Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection.

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