Division of Environmental Health

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our Environmental Health Services office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location.
703-246-2201 TTY 711
10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
Pieter A. Sheehan, REHS
Director, Division of Environmental Health

Healthy Swimming and Recreational Water Safety

Before you or your family visit pools, waterparks, hot tubs, spas, splash pads and water playgrounds, be sure to know how to stay healthy and safe. Although swimming is a physical activity that offers many health benefits, pools and other recreational water venues also are places where germs can be spread and injuries can happen.

Maximize the health benefits of swimming and other water-based activities while minimizing the risk of illness and injury. Each of us can play a role in preventing illnesses and injuries when we swim, play, and relax in the water—this summer and year-round. 

Learn more at swimhealthyVA.com 

Recreational Water Illnesses

A young girl plays joyfully at a splashpadRecreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers or oceans. RWI may include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fever. Other RWIs can cause skin, ear, eye, respiratory, or neurologic symptoms. Healthy swimming habits can lower your chance of getting sick.

Here are a few steps you can take to prevent RWIs:

  • Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before you start swimming.
  • Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water.
  • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30–60 minutes.
  • Follow the steps of healthy swimming.

Stay Healthy and Safe in Splash Pads

Splash pads can spread germs and make users sick if the water is not adequately disinfected. Users and parents of young users should take their own steps to stop the spread of germs. In addition to the steps above, DON’T sit or stand on the jets. Sitting or standing on jets can rinse poop off your butt. 

Learn more about Stopping the Spread of Germs in Splash Pads.

Recreational Water Injuries

A swim instructor and a  group of diverse children using kickboards at a swimming lessonWe encourage people to learn about preventing recreational water injuries, such as drowning and slips, trips and falls, which can occur in or around the water.

VDH shares information about what drowning looks like and how to prevent it.

Visit PoolSafely.gov to learn simple steps to reduce childhood drownings and pool injuries.

Learn Lifesaving Skills

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every family learn to swim. Swimming lessons have been shown to be beneficial for children as young as age one, but parents should consult with their pediatrician to determine when their child is ready. 

CPR is another skill and is the most effective way to promote a positive outcome if a drowning has happened.

Learn more about water lifesaving skills from VDH.

Swimming in Natural Waters

Fairfax County has over 1,600 miles of streams and associated channels. Natural waters can be susceptible to pollution that can cause health risks to people and their pets. 

Headed to the lake or beach this summer?

Algae are naturally-occurring microscopic organisms that are found in fresh and salt waters of Virginia and around the world. Most algae do not harm people, wildlife, or the environment, but some types in Virginia can be dangerous. Algae may multiply rapidly when environmental conditions are favorable for their development. This results in what is called an algal bloom. Swimming in water with harmful algal blooms can cause illness. 

Bacteria levels in beach water are monitored at 45 public beaches in Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean during the swimming season (May – September). Water samples are collected weekly and analyzed for enterococci bacteria. Enterococci bacteria serve as an indicator for fecal contamination in salt and brackish waters. These organisms are not harmful themselves, but indicate that other potentially harmful organisms may be present. Swimming advisories are typically issued when there are high levels of enterococci bacteria because there increased health risk to recreational water users, especially to young children, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system.

If you have questions about pools, contact us at 703-246-2201. 

Complaints may be reported to the Health Department through the county's Planning and Land Use System.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant