Wednesday, April 23
Current RiverCast:
GREEN
Terms of Use

Water Quality and Health Concerns

Recreation in Philadelphia's Rivers and Streams

Philadelphia's rivers and streams are not designated swimming areas, and swimming and bathing are not permitted outside of organized events (e.g., races, triathlons,etc.), due to risks of drowning, injury from submerged objects, strong currents, and other hazards. Individuals should consult a physician before engaging in recreational activities that would place them in contact with river water. Persons with compromised immune systems should consult their health care provider before participating in recreational activities that place them at risk for illness.

1. When is swimming allowed in the river or city streams?

Philadelphia's rivers and streams are not designated swimming areas, and swimming and bathing are not permitted outside of organized events (e.g., races, triathlons, etc.), due to risks of drowning, injury from submerged objects, strong currents, and other hazards.

2. Should I recreate in the river if I have an underlying medical condition, such as HIV infection, cancer, or other impairment to my immune system? Are there any precautions that I should take?

Individuals who have a significant underlying medical condition should always consult with their health care provider before engaging in recreational activities that would place them in contact with river water. River water is not sterile and may contain microorganisms, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. If swallowed, these microorganisms pose a health risk to individuals who have impaired immune systems. To help prevent illness following recreational activities on the river, individuals should avoid swallowing river water and should wash off thoroughly following any activity where river water is contacted.

3. Should I recreate in the river if I have an open skin lesion or wound?

You should not immerse any skin wounds that have sutures ("stitches") until the sutures have been removed. If you have extensive open skin wounds or sores, it is probably best to delay exposing them to river water until the lesions are healed. For small skin lesions, you should wash the wounds liberally with fresh clean water (e.g., drinking water) after exposure to the river.

4. What do I do if I get injured in the water (cut on bottom of the riverbed)?

Seek medical attention for any injury that occurs while recreating on the river. Wounds should be managed through carefully cleaning, control of bleeding, and examination for the possible presence of unsuspected foreign material. It is also important to assure that your tetanus immunization (vaccination) status is up to date.

5. Is it safe for my pet to swim in the river?

The risks of recreating in the river are the same for pets as for their owners. Strong currents, drowning, and unseen objects such as fishhooks or glass fragments are a threat to even the best of swimmers. Pets should never be left unattended at the river. If a pet does become immersed in the river, it should be thoroughly bathed afterwards.

6. Are there any other health concerns that I should know about if I plan to recreate in the river?

You should take the proper precautions for any extended time spent outdoors.

  • Dress appropriately for the weather
  • Have plenty of fresh drinking water available
  • Avoid dehydration and hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Apply sunscreen liberally and regularly