WHAT IT MEANS: By all means, bring the kids to a local splash park to cool off on a hot day. But take the same precautions with splash parks and public fountains as you would with swimming pools.
That basically means:
• Wash your kids beforehand. Do your part not to contribute to the problem. Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their behinds, and if it’s not washed off at home, it gets washed off at the splash park.
• Keep kids with diarrhea out of the water. Cryptosporidiosis is spread in diarrhea, and don’t assume that a swim diaper is a protective barrier. “We don’t know how good swim diapers are,” says Hlavsa. “No manufacturers are saying they can contain diarrhea.” Keep those kids at home, and even if you have healthy kids in swim diapers, check them every 30 to 60 minutes, she says. “You see how bulky those diapers can get. If water is getting in, we can only assume that water is coming out, and washing away anything in the diaper.”
• Test the water. Although guidelines vary state-to-state and city-to-city, public pools generally have to follow requirements to test water for bacteria and chlorine levels. However, fountains and splash parks may or may not be covered under those guidelines, she says, depending on how the codes are written in a particular community. Hlavsa recommends buying chlorine test strips at your local hardware store and testing the water yourself. Look for chlorine levels between 1 and 3 parts per million and pH levels of 7.2 to 7.8, she says; the more acidic the water is, the more effective the chlorine will be at killing bacteria.
• Bring your own water to drink! You contract cryptosporidiosis by drinking contaminated water, and there’s some suspicion that the 2005 New York State outbreak may have been caused by people treating the spray park as a public drinking fountain. While chlorine will kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, cryptosporidium are resistant to it and can survive for up to 10 days in a well-chlorinated pool or fountain. So discourage the kids from imbibing the spray, and have them quench their thirst at actual drinking fountains, or bring your own drinking water.