About Illness & Beaches

People can get sick from swimming in, or swallowing, polluted water. Fortunately, while swimming-related illnesses are unpleasant, they usually are not very serious and require little or no treatment. The most common illness is gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and the intestines that can cause symptoms like vomiting, headaches, and fever. Other minor illnesses include ear, eye and throat infections. You are more likely to get sick if you swim at a closed beach or one that has not been tested for contamination. Swimmers can sometimes be exposed to more serious diseases like salmonella.

People can get rashes simply from getting polluted water on their skin or in their eyes. In rare cases, swimmers can develop illnesses or infections if an open wound is exposed to polluted water.

Not all illnesses from a day at the beach are from swimming. Food poisoning from improperly-refrigerated picnic lunches may also have some of the same symptoms as swimming-related illnesses.

At-Risk Groups

  • Children;
  • Older Adults;
  • People with weakened immune systems.

What you should do if you suspect you have a illness from contaminated water

Call your healthcare provider if. . .

You have been to a beach and have any of the following symptoms:

  • Skin rash or irritation;
  • Fever over 101.5° F, measured orally;
  • Blood in the stool;
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration);
  • Diarrheal illness that lasts more than 3 days.

Notify us if. . .

You suspect that your illness resulted from swimming at a public beach and would like to submit a complaint. Beach Program