Help us identify health risks of freshwater bathing

Posted on 23rd May 2024

Researchers are calling on the UK population to help provide a ‘health snapshot’ of the possible risks of bathing in the country’s rivers and lakes.

The team from the Centre’s antimicrobial resistance and microbiology group wants to understand whether people who swim in freshwater environments might be more likely to experience illness compared to those who don’t.

Find out more and take part here >>

What is this study about?

Outdoor or ‘wild’ swimming is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with more people than ever taking to rivers, lakes and other natural freshwater environments at all times of the year. Although wild swimming offers opportunities for physical exercise and stress relief, there are also some risks involved.

Rivers can be contaminated with discharges of sewage following heavy rainfall, or affected by outflows from water treatment works, with effects that vary across the country.

Exposure to these polluted waters might have significant effects on the health of the growing community of freshwater swimmers, yet these risks remain largely unexplored.

Who can take part?

A research team led by PhD student Elitsa Penkova is asking both swimmers and non-swimmers to complete an online questionnaire throughout the 2024 bathing season.

Anyone over the age of 16 and living in the UK can take part, provided they haven’t engaged in any water-based activities outside the UK in the past 30 days.

Find out more about this study in the Participant Information sheet.

What does participation involve?

The online questionnaire will ask about your health and any recreational visits to rivers or lakes in the UK within the past two weeks. Alongside some personal details, you will also be asked about your recent travel history, diet, household and occupation.

This research is part of a larger project aiming to quantify the risks of freshwater activities, and builds on previous work that identified significant health risks associated with coastal waters, where bathing in faecally-contaminated areas was linked to a range of health issues including stomach, skin, ear and eye ailments.

Start the survey now >>

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