Why Water Parks Aren't As Clean As You Think

Sure, amusement parks may be fun year-round, but water parks are where children and families flock to in the thick of summertime. Nothing feels better than getting soaked to the bone on a waterslide or during a lazy river tubing adventure on a sweltering 90 degree day. Although water parks are a popular summer destination, there are some potential hazards to keep in mind — and they go well beyond just bumps or bruises.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the average person carries around 0.14 grams of fecal matter on their skin. While that number may sound small on its own, that number suddenly becomes much larger when you consider the fact that across the country, millions of people visit water parks annually (via Insider). Swimming in contaminated water leaves us susceptible to waterborne illness, which can lead to rashes, ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory congestion, and more.

Water parks can be a breeding ground for bacteria

Disposable swim diapers are used by many parents to help keep children safe in public swimming areas. However, a study conducted in 2004 published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that swim diapers are only effective for a certain length of time — and that length of time is nowhere near the length of a full day at the park. In fact, it was discovered that several brands of these single-use diapers proved to only be 99% effective at containing solid matter for roughly half an hour of time spent in the water. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents take children for frequent bathroom breaks throughout the day and to change swim diapers roughly twice an hour.

But the water isn't the only place where contaminants can hide. According to a 2009 report published by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the soft safety padding used to line the edges of water rides and pools can serve as a ripe place for bacteria to thrive.

In order to protect yourself, experts suggest showering before and after engaging in water activity. In addition, ensure that children know never to consume pool water while swimming. Most importantly, if you're physically ill with nausea or diarrhea, be sure you are fully recovered before hitting the wave pool!