The Arkansas Department of Health recommends that swimmers take steps to stay healthy and safe by being aware of recreational water illnesses — germs that are spread by swallowing, having contact with or breathing in the mists or droplets from contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, interactive fountains, water play areas, lakes, rivers, or oceans.

The chlorine used in swimming pools, hot tubs, and other water venues kills germs that cause RWIs, but chlorine levels can be reduced.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that, "All sorts of things can reduce chlorine levels in pool water. Some examples are sunlight, dirt, debris, and material from swimmers’ bodies. That’s why chlorine levels must be routinely measured." Because these factors can impact the effectiveness of chlorine, it is important to practice healthy and safe swimming habits.

• Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

• Don’t swallow the pool or lake water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.

• Practice good hygiene. Germs on your body end up in the water. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

• Don’t swim with open cuts, abrasions, or wounds. Breaks in the skin can let harmful germs into your body.

• Don’t swim in cloudy water.

• Learn about the local water conditions, currents, and rules before entering the water.

• Make sure everyone knows how to swim.

• Use life jackets appropriately.

• Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers.

• Know CPR (for older children and adults).

• Do not drink alcohol before or during swimming, diving, or boating. Alcohol affects balance, coordination, and judgment.