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Protect Yourself During Harmful Algal Blooms

How to protect yourself and your family

  • Comply with instructions on health advisory signs posted at waterbodies experiencing a harmful algal bloom.
  • Stay out of the water and avoid any contact with water or scums if you suspect a waterbody is experiencing a harmful algal bloom.

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 (in the HABs menu) 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 can include:

  • 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

Animals may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Staggering
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions

Learn How to Protect Your Dog

Advice for Hunters

How to stay safe


  • Don’t swim in water that has an 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.
  • Always take a shower after coming into contact with any surface water whether or not an algal bloom appears to be present. Rinse animals immediately if they swim in scummy water and don’t let them lick their fur.


  • Never drink untreated surface water. Untreated surface water may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses, as well as algal toxins, that all could cause illness if ingested.
  • Do not boil water in an attempt to remove toxins, as boiling actually releases more toxins.
  • Wash dishes with bottled water. Do not use water from areas with algal blooms.
  • If your drinking water does not come from a public water system, don’t drink surface water, even if it is treated, during an algal bloom. In-home treatments such as boiling or disinfecting water with chlorine or ultraviolet (UV) or water filtration units do not protect people from harmful algal toxins.