Dodge City has a beautiful water park and most of the hotels have swimming pools, but some prefer natural water for fun and sport.
Rivers are not an issue in this locale but some lakes are. Be careful when swimming, boating or participating in water sports in these bodies of water because they can contain organisms which can cause illness. Although the conditions are not life-threatening, they can be inconvenient and a nuisance and require treatment.
Before dipping in, check the health of the water. Young children, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems can be at greater risk of getting sick from some water-borne illnesses.
Be aware of the following: diarrhea caused by some viruses, bacterial and parasites. It is caused when people swallow water contaminated with feces. Children and adults should avoid swimming anywhere if they have diarrhea; swimmer's itch is caused by a parasite found in snails in some lakes. The parasite burrows into the skin and causes intense itching. Symptoms usually appear within a few hours of exposure and can also cause skin burning and tingling as well as a rash of red blisters. The rash usually lasts about 2 weeks and requires only symptomatic treatment (e.g. anti-itch cream); the germ which causes hot tub rash can also be found in lakes. It can cause an itching red rash as well as swimmer's ear. The rash clears up on its own. The ear problem usually requires antibiotic drops.
On a more serious note, Leptospirosis, a spirochete (similar to a bacteria) causes significant illness in infected individuals. It is rarely found but can be quite serious if gone unrecognized. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle soreness in the calves and back, red eyes, stomach ache and a rash over the shins. This illness is treated with antibiotics.
In summary, enjoy the water but mind the warnings when going out on the lake.
Dr. Lyle D. Smith is a pediatrician at Dodge City Medical Center.