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How to protect yourself from infections while swimming

Every summer there is scary news about people who become infected by germs in the water – and sometimes die. Here's what you should know about some of the most famous (but rare!) Infections that have appeared in the news lately. Naegleria fowleri usually lives in warm water and eats bacteria. It will not harm you if it gets on your skin or if you swallow it. However, if it is in water that sprays or snorts your nose, it can cause an infection.

It is a particularly frightening disease, as a person is usually seriously ill at the time of symptoms. There are no medications known to be effective, though doctors will try a few things. The CDC has more information on N. fowleri infection here.

The good news is that it is extremely rare ̵

1; so rare that every time someone dies of it, they make the news. Between 1962 and 2018, only 145 cases were reported. If you want to be extra cautious, avoid swimming in warm fresh water, or at least wear nose clips and do your best to keep water out of your nose.

Vibrio infections

Several species of Vibrio bacteria live in the ocean and can make you sick. Most commonly they cause food poisoning (one of the risks of eating raw shellfish, including oysters), but they can also infect the skin if you go swimming with an open wound. Vibrio infections can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, death or amputation.

Vibrio most commonly occurs in warm salt water (including brackish water). The risk season extends from May to October in many places where it occurs. Due to climate change, warm water is accumulating, causing Vibrio infections.

In order to protect themselves from swimming, the CDC recommends avoiding salt or brackish water in open wounds or covering it with a waterproof dressing.

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