Swimming Health and Safety
Swimming at the pool or beach is a great way for families to enjoy the outdoors, but you should take precautions to protect everyone's health.
Take swimming seriously
About eight people die of drowning each year in Snohomish County, most in our natural lakes, rivers, or Puget Sound. Often, teens and young adults go beyond their limits, not recognizing the dangers of cold water or swift currents.
Teach your kids to swim. Wear lifejackets when boating. Never swim alone. Few Snohomish County beaches have lifeguards, so always have an adult designated to watch young children.
Avoid spreading or getting disease
Water can spread bacteria, such as E. coli, from people or animals.
- People with infectious illness, including vomiting or diarrhea, should not go swimming.
- Shower thoroughly before entering a pool
- Small children should be taken on frequent bathroom breaks
- Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands with soapy water after using the restroom or changing diapers
- Swimmers should wash their hands and face thoroughly with soapy water before eating or preparing food
Prevent swimmer’s itch
Swimmer's itch is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to parasites that typically infect some birds and mammals. The parasites come from infected snails which live in lakes, ponds, and oceans. After burrowing into a swimmer's skin, the parasite soon dies, causing pimply irritation and itching commonly called “Swimmer’s Itch.”
The parasites are more likely to be present in shallow water by the shoreline. Children are most often affected because they tend to swim, wade, and play in the shallow water more than adults. Also, they are less likely to towel dry themselves when leaving the water.
- Do not swim in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem or where signs have been posted warning of unsafe water
- Do not swim near or wade in marshy areas where snails are commonly found
- Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water
- Do not attract birds (e.g., by feeding them) to areas where people are swimming.
Always watch children when they are in or near the water – even if they know how to swim. About 8 people die of drowning each year in Snohomish County.
See the Safe Kids website for drowning prevention information.
Avoid waterborne illness
- Don’t drink lake water
- Don’t go in the water if you are sick, and don’t visit a public recreation area within 48 hours of being sick
- Keep children who wear diapers or aren’t toilet trained out of the water
- Prevent swimmer’s itch by showering or towel drying right after you leave the water. Using sunscreen may also help prevent swimmer’s itch
- Avoid all contact with water that has a blue or green colored scum layer (algae)—it can make you very ill
The Snohomish Health District regulates water quality and safety features at public and semi-private swimming pools. Local lakes and streams are monitored by the State Department of Ecology, Snohomish County Surface Water Management and through Environmental Protection Agency programs.
Many local waterways, including North Creek and Swamp Creek in south Snohomish County, and the Stillaguamish River in north county, have been found to have high levels of fecal coliform, which can vary over time. Fecal coliform such as E. coli can be a cause of recreational water illness.
If you think you got sick from a public water or food source - such as a swimming beach, campground, or restaurant – contact the Snohomish Health District at 425.339.5278.
We will ask you questions about what you ate and where you’ve been over the past several days to try to narrow down the many possible causes of illness.