CDC warns of lake-related illnesses


Did you bring home more than memories from your long weekend at the lake?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning there are several illnesses you can get from swimming in contaminated lakes and ponds.

A day at the lake or the local swimming hole is supposed to mean fun in the sun, but if you're not careful, you may end up with an unfortunate souvenir.

"The types of things you can see are diarrhea-illnesses, irritations of the skin, sometimes irritations of the eyes, nose, and mouth, as well," said Dr. Susan Rehm, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic.

Algae is a problem in many lakes. Rehm says although most algal blooms are not harmful, blue-green algae can make you sick. Hot weather and farm runoff can make algae worse. Many beaches are now testing for algae toxins, so pay attention to alerts and look for the signs you can spot yourself.

"Seeing a sheen on the water, like a paint sheen on the water, is potentially a sign that there is algae there," said Rehm.

E. coli and other bacteria are also a major risk at some beaches, and still water can boost bacterial growth.

Rehm says whenever you're swimming or boating in fresh water, you should look for storm drains that may be pulling polluted water from streets. Bacteria levels may be especially high on really hot days and after heavy rainfall.

"If there is a storm, storm runoff can bring sewage and other pollutants into fresh water, and there are high concentrations there, and of course, the warm weather does accelerate the growth of bacteria under those circumstances," said Rehm.

To decrease your risk of getting sick, Rehm says avoid swallowing water while swimming, don't swim with an open cut or wound and take a shower before and after.

It's also critical to pay attention to any advisories involving water quality before you head for the lake or beach. There's an app called MyBeachCast that provides real-time information on beach water quality advisories, weather and water conditions for the Great Lakes region.

To learn more about how to protect your family from water-related illnesses, click here to download a free brochure.