Be careful of these hidden warm weather dangers
When we think of things going wrong in the pool, our minds jump to drowning. Turns out, there are even more terrifying dangers lurking below the surface. While we don’t want to deter you from enjoying your summer by the pool, remember to be careful!
Naegleria fowleri, a heat loving amoeba, is usually harmless, but if it gets up someone’s nose, the amobea can be life-threatening. It’s not entirely clear how or why, but it attaches to one of the nerves that takes smell signals to the brain. There, the amoeba reproduces and the brain swelling and infection that follows is almost always deadly.
While infections are rare, they occur mainly during the summer months, and usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days. Naegleria fowleri can be found in pools, hot tubs, pipes, hot water heaters, and fresh water bodies of water.
In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of public pools, researchers found that 58 percent of the pool filter samples were positive for E. coli—bacteria normally found in the human gut and feces. (Ew!) "Even though most cities require pools to be closed when someone's kid goes number two in the pool, the majority of pools I have worked for just add a little more chlorine. In one instance, I was working as a swim instructor and there was a particularly 'serious' incident where I was just instructed to teach my students on the opposite end of the pool. Completely gross, but they didn't want to lose the revenue from having to cancel lessons," Jeremy, a beach and pool lifeguard for five years told CNN.
The Water Quality & Health Council revealed that of the pools tested by them, 54 percent flunked with their chlorine levels, and 47 percent had the wrong pH balance. Why that matters: The wrong chlorine levels and pH balance can create the perfect condition for bacteria to grow. Symptoms of E. coli are nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and stomach cramps. In extreme cases, E. coli can cause kidney failure and even death. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and hot water before entering the pool to avoid spreading feces and bacteria, and don't swallow water!
Many people don’t realize that you can drown even after you're out of the water. Secondary drowning, also called dry drowning, happens when someone breathes in small amounts of water during a near-drowning incident. This triggers the muscles in their airway to spasm, making breathing difficult, and causes pulmonary edema (swelling of the lungs).
A person who had a drowning close call can be out of the water and walking around normally before signs of dry drowning become apparent. Symptoms include chest pain, cough, sudden changes in behavior, and extreme fatigue. If untreated, it can be fatal. This condition is rare—occuring in five percent of near-drowning incidents—and is more common in children, as they are more prone to swallowing and inhaling water. Time is an important factor in treating secondary drowning, so if you notice any of these signs (and there was a possibility you or a loved one inhaled water), go to the emergency room immediately.
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Staying out of the pool during a storm seems like another one of mom’s silly warnings, but being struck by lightning in the pool is a real danger. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), more people die or are injured by lightning in the summer months than any other time of the year. The increase in thunderstorm activity combined with more outdoor activities leads to a spike in lightning incidences.
Lightning regularly strikes water, a conductor, and has the tendency to strike the highest point around, which in a pool, would be you. Even if you aren’t struck, the lightning current spreads out in all directions and may travel up to 20 feet before dissipating. Even more: Experts from the NWS recommend staying out of showers and tubs during lightning storms, as current from lightning has been known to travel through plumbing.