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Protect Yourself During Harmful Algal Blooms

How to stay safe…

… if you suspect a harmful algal bloom

  • Don’t swim in water that appears to have a harmful algal bloom.
  • Don’t boat, water ski, or jet-ski on scummy water. These activities can cause toxins to become airborne, increasing the likelihood you will inhale them.
  • Don’t let children play with scum in the water or along the shore.
  • Don’t let pets or livestock swim in or drink from scummy waters.
  • When in doubt, stay out.

… every time you go out

  • Don’t swallow water when swimming.
  • Shower after coming into contact with recreational water.
  • Rinse animals immediately if they swim in recreational water.
  • Wash hands with clean water before eating or preparing food.
  • Clean fish well and discard the guts.
  • Never drink recreational water. Recreational water may contain bacteria, parasites, or viruses, as well as cyanotoxins, that could cause illness if ingested.
  • Do not boil water in an attempt to remove toxins, as boiling actually releases more toxins.
  • Wash dishes with clean water. Do not use recreational water.
  • When in doubt, stay out.

How to recognize a harmful algal bloom

Harmful algal blooms may look like pea soup, green or blue paint, or have a scum layer or mats/foam floating on the surface. The water may also appear in shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown, or red. Visit the HABs Photo Gallery for examples of blooms in Utah.

How to report an exposure

Call the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) at (800) 222-1222 if you think you or your pet have been exposed to a harmful algal bloom. UPCC physicians, pharmacists, and nurses trained in toxicology can answer your questions and advise you on the need for further medical or veterinary treatment.

Symptoms of human exposure

  • Rashes, hives, or blisters from skin contact
  • Runny nose, sore throat, asthma, or allergic-like reactions from breathing in droplets from contaminated water
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain, weakness, tingling, dizziness, or trouble breathing from swallowing contaminated water

Symptoms of animal exposure

  • Weakness
  • Staggering
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions

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