Recreational Water Illness

What are recreational water illnesses?

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim or play in, including swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, splash pads, lakes, rivers, or oceans. They are spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water.

What are possible causes of RWIs?

The most common type of RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, E. coli O157, norovirus, and Shigella. Germs that cause other types of RWIs include Pseudomonas and Naegleria fowleri. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that turn into gas and cause air quality problems at indoor aquatic facilities.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of RWIs include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fever. Other RWIs can cause skin, ear, eye, respiratory, or neurologic symptoms.

It is important to:

  1. Stay out of the water is you have diarrhea.
  2. Shower before you get in the water.
  3. Do not swallow the water.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water.  Alcohol-based sanitizers are not effective against Crypto.

Please see the Healthy Swimming for more information. 

How do I report a suspected RWI?

To report a suspected waterborne illness, call the Minnesota Department of Health at 1-877-366-3455 (or 651-201-5655 from the Twin Cities).

Recreational Water Illness Fact Sheets