If you’ve become ill following a pool day, you may have caught a nasty bug. During the summer months, more cases of cryptosporidium, or “crypto,” are diagnosed. Crypto is a microscopic parasite that causes diarrheal diseases, which spread easily in water. It’s the leading cause of waterborne disease in people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Kids are especially at risk for contracting and spreading the disease at community pools,” says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician at University of Utah Health. “That’s because crypto is resistant to chlorine.”
While crypto can spread in several ways, it’s most commonly contracted while swimming. You can avoid contacting and spreading crypto at swimming pools by:
- Not swimming if you have had diarrhea in the previous two weeks.
- Avoid swallowing pool water.
- Use swim diapers on babies and check them often.
- Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
You can contract crypto from lakes and streams, as well. Don’t swallow water unless it’s been boiled or filtered. Crypto can also live on surfaces that have been contaminated with waste. Make sure to wash your hands properly after touching animals or using the restroom, as well as before preparing food and eating.
A person infected with crypto could have symptoms for about one to two weeks, depending on their immune system. The most common symptom is watery diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration. This puts young children and pregnant women at higher risk. Contact your health care provider if you suspect you have crypto.