Recreational water-related illness: office management and prevention.
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OBJECTIVE: To review the risk factors, management, and prevention of recreational water-related illness in family practice. SOURCES OF INFORMATION: Original and review articles from January 1998 to February 2012 were identified using PubMed and the search terms water-related illness, recreational water illness, and swimmer illness. MAIN MESSAGE: There is a 3% to 8% risk of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) after swimming. The high-risk groups for AGI are children younger than 5 years, especially if they have not been vaccinated for rotavirus, and elderly and immunocompromised patients. Children are at higher risk because they swallow more water when swimming, stay in the water longer, and play in the shallow water and sand, which are more contaminated. Participants in sports with a lot of water contact like triathlon and kite surfing are also at high risk, and even activities involving partial water contact like boating and fishing carry a 40% to 50% increase in risk of AGI compared with nonwater recreational activities. Stool cultures should be done when a recreational water illness is suspected, and the clinical dehydration scale is a useful clinical tool for assessing the treatment needs of affected children. CONCLUSION: Recreational water illness is the main attributable cause of AGI during swimming season. Recognition that swimming is a substantial source of illness can help prevent recurrent and secondary cases. Rotavirus vaccine is highly recommended for children who will swim frequently.