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Although a lake or pond may appear crystal clear, fresh or as clean as you have ever seen, it may indeed be a haven for countless waterborne parasites waiting to invade your body and do you harm. Some of the more well-known parasites include Cryptosporidium and Giardia. These parasites are present in freshwater lakes throughout the United States. Schistosomes, is rarer than the aforementioned two, but has been reported in the upper Midwest and parts of the South and Southwest.

Even rarer, though occasionally found in the United States, often brought in by foreigners or those traveling abroad, is the Guinea worm. However, as bad as these parasites could be, a more disturbing one is also lurking in the seemingly calm waters of your local freshwater hangout spot; this being the Naegleria fowleri parasite, more commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba. All the parasites that you may face when exposed to lake water have their own distinctive symptoms and characteristics, and knowing these can increase your chances of avoiding severe medical illnesses and possibly death.

Five Common-Sense Precautions for Waterborne Parasites

Although the ways of acquiring fresh water parasites differ from one another. The following general list can provide some basic precautions that can be taken when you are exposed to water possibly containing these harmful or even lethal microscopic creatures.

  1. This should be no surprise. Purify ALL water before drinking it. No matter how clean or fresh a water source may appear, you always need to purify it first. You can’t see bacteria, viruses, or parasites, so don’t assume water that looks safe to drink, is. Bringing your water to a rolling boil for five minutes works well, as does ultraviolet purification, and chemical purification methods
  2. Crowded pools can also spread parasites, such as Giardia, to those frolicking and having fun in the water. These parasites have hard outer shells that allow them to survive in pools for up to forty-five minutes. An infected individual can spread the germs through fecal matter and if ingested by a swimmer nearby, can cause illness. If the pool’s chemicals are not maintained or you suspect possible contaminated water, stay out and avoid the risk.
  3. Be alert if you live in a flood-prone region. A flooded area can cause normally safe drinking water to mix with human and animal feces, resulting in people unknowingly ingesting dangerous microorganisms into their bodies. These can then wreak havoc on their gastro-intestinal system so fiercely that it can cause dehydration and sometimes death.
  4. Not all parasites enter the body through a person’s mouth. In some instances, open wounds, such as cuts or deep scrapes, can be the entrance way for many microorganisms. Be alert and avoid questionable swimming areas if you have such injuries.
  5. Head all warnings when an area is marked off as “closed for swimming.” You really don’t know the reason why, but why chance it? Any number of reasons could make your favorite swimming hole unsafe. Risking your health or even your life is never worth a refreshing dip during a hot summer day.

This article is from the spring 2018 issue of Survivor’s Edge Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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