Experts at ChemistDirect offer health advice to wild swimmers taking the plunge

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ChemistDirect Superintendant Pharmacist Omar El-Gohary gives advice on wild swimming and the implications it can have upon your health.

Wild Swimmers

Wild Swimming is fun but can cause stomach upsets, vomiting & skin rashes

Wild swimmers should always consult the Environment Agency’s website to check the water quality of their local bathing spot before diving in.

Wild swimming may have been the norm for our great-grandparents but now the masses are shunning chlorinated swimming pools and heading to rivers, lakes and waterfalls to cool off in hot weather. 1

Sponsored open water swims and triathlons are also increasing in popularity, and the Great North Swim, which started in 2008 with 3,000 participants, now attracts more than 10,000 swimmers every year. 2

The benefits of wild swimming include boosting cardiovascular health, improving the immune system, and giving swimmers a natural high, thanks to endorphins triggered by the cold water.

But common complaints include stomach upsets, abrasions to hands and feet caused by stony riverbeds and rock pools, and ‘swimmers itch’ – an itchy rash caused by certain parasites that normally live in freshwater snails.

ChemistDirect Superintendent Pharmacist Omar El-Gohary said: “Many stomach upsets are caused by swallowing dirty water, so swimmers should avoid this and always wash their hands and shower afterwards.”

This advice is backed up by a report published by Public Health England earlier this year after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness amongst participants in a sponsored swim in the Thames last year. 3

Over 1,000 people took part in the Hampton Court swim and 338 reported symptoms of nausea, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting. The report concluded that this was likely to be due to swallowing river water and inadequate hygiene precautions when handling wetsuits.

El-Gohary adds: “Swimmers with cuts shouldn’t swim outdoors to avoid the risk of infection. They should also ensure that they don’t get too cold, and always have warm clothes to put on afterwards.”

Swimmers should also look out for blue-green algae, which can collect in the downwind side of a lake in late summer. This can give swimmers a skin rash, irritate their eyes and make them sick if they swallow it, so should be avoided. 4

Wild swimmers should always consult the Environment Agency’s website to check the water quality of their local bathing spot before diving in.

References:

1.    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2335174/Daniel-Start-reveals-best-places-UK-wild-swimming.html
2.    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/19/hooked-open-water-swimming-windermere
3.    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/swimming-in-the-river-thames-can-carry-a-risk-of-gastrointestinal-illness
4.    http://www.wildswimming.co.uk/health-safety/

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Samantha Smith
Chemist Direct
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