WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — All the rain in some areas of Kansas could have a nasty side effect for people trying to enjoy the water this holiday weekend.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said prolonged rains have contributed to an increased risk of bacteria in lakes, streams and rivers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the germs found in the water and sand often come from human or animal feces. Water from heavy rain picks up anything it comes in contact with, including feces from where animals live and can drain into swim areas.

The KDHE says water contaminated with these germs can make you sick if you swallow it or can cause an infection if you get into the water with an open wound.

The health experts say to avoid recreational activities in streams and lakes after rainfall while the water is cloudy or opaque.

KDHE advice:

  • Do not swallow the water.
  • Keep sand away from your mouth and children’s mouths.
  • Take frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Wash hands before preparing or eating food.

Exposure to contaminated surface water can lead to an E. coli infection. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but others, such as Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC), can cause life-threatening illnesses. The KDHE said five children got STEC last year after recreational activities at Eureka Lake.

As a reminder, children are more likely to swallow water while swimming than adults.

The symptoms of a STEC infection vary. They often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. In addition, individuals may experience a fever, usually less than 101˚F.

If you experience the symptoms of STEC after swimming in a Kansas lake, contact your health care provider. Most people get better within five to seven days.

For more information about STEC or the other kinds of E.coli, click here for the CDC website.