Division of Environmental Health

Fairfax County, Virginia

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.

TTY 711

10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030

Pieter A. Sheehan, REHS,
Director, Division of Environmental Health

Healthy Swimming and Recreational Water Safety

Healthy and Safe Swimming

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 

Healthy and Safe Swim Week 2023 Feature: Got Diarrhea? Don’t Swim!

Three children smiling at the edge of a pool. Text:Healthy And Safe Swimming Week May 22-28, 2023. www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.You can get sick with diarrhea if you swallow even a small amount of contaminated water in pools, hot tubs, splash pads, oceans, lakes, or rivers. In fact, diarrhea is the most common illness reported for outbreaks linked to water in these places.

Each of us can help protect ourselves, our families, and our friends from germs that cause diarrhea. Take the following steps when swimming or playing in the water:

  • Stay out of the water if you are sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t poop in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers (away from the water) every hour. Wash your hands after.

Before going in pools, splash pads, and hot tubs, rinse off! A 1-minute shower will remove most of the dirt, sweat, and oils on your body that use up the pool chemicals needed to kill germs.

Learn more about Diarrhea and Swimming from CDC.

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.

Recreational Water Illnesses

Recreational 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.

Make a Healthy Splash InfographicHere 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. So, 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

Fairfax County Health Department encourages people to learn about preventing recreational water injuries, such as drowning and slips, trips and falls, which can occur in or around the water.

The Virginia Department of Health (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 in the Water

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 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. 

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (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. Read our advisory on recreational use of county streams.

If you have questions about pools, contact us at 703-246-2300. 

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

Fairfax Virtual Assistant