Would you swim a body of water as yet uncrossed if you knew it would make you sick?

IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
edited May 2014 in General Discussion
Seriously. That is the question I’m asking you. Would you swim an incredible body of water, one probably never swum in, at least not at the distances we do; one in such a unique area that people will gasp; one whose beauty is something to behold, beauty you see only in NatGeo documentaries. Would you swim this body of water even if you know you’d get sick?


And I don’t mean normal sick. Not salt-water-in-my-belly sick. Not sore-sick from stroking for 12+ hours straight in rough water. Not sick from too many carb-heavy feedings.

No, I’m talking sick like abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, elevated white blood cell count, fever, fatigue and enlargement of your liver and spleen. Would you? (Remember I’m talking a really pretty body of water and one which no one has ever crossed, at least as far as I know.)


OK, don’t answer just yet. How about if there was a treatment. In fact, what if the treatment is simply a few tablets every 4-6 hours for a day? (So what if it isn’t licensed for use in humans in the UK.) In fact, some people on our planet take an annual dosage. Would this information change your answer?

Seriously, I want to know what everyone thinks.


Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!


  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited April 2014
    Probably not.

    Health is too variable and too precious to risk. I mean we all risk it somewhat, but that's based on training and experience. Your pic are Lake Wenchi in Ethiopia. Do you mean malaria? I'm far, far from expert, but my son contracted malaria in Uganda. He'll be on treatment for the rest of his life. Every so often he can expect debilitating bouts of sickness/pain, despite a proven treatment.

    Is malaria the same for everyone? I know one malaria treatment has been proven to cause its own serious side effects. What if you take the risk, contract it, and then find you have a minority effect, or it's more severe for you?

    Edit: The parasite shown is schistosomiasis. From Wiki:

    Many individuals do not experience symptoms. If symptoms do appear, it usually takes four to six weeks from the time of infection. The first symptom of the disease may be a general ill feeling. Within twelve hours of infection, an individual may complain of a tingling sensation or light rash, commonly referred to as "swimmer's itch", due to irritation at the point of entrance. The rash that may develop can mimic scabies and other types of rashes. Other symptoms can occur two to ten weeks later and can include fever, aching, cough, diarrhea, or gland enlargement. These symptoms can also be related to avian schistosomiasis, which does not cause any further symptoms in humans.

    Katayama fever[edit]
    Another primary condition, called Katayama fever, may also develop from infection with these worms, and it can be very difficult to recognize. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, the eruption of pale temporary bumps associated with severe itching (urticarial) rash, liver and spleen enlargement, and bronchospasm.

    Intestinal schistosomiasis[edit]
    In intestinal schistosomiasis, eggs become lodged in the intestinal wall and cause an immune system reaction called a granulomatous reaction. This immune response can lead to obstruction of the colon and blood loss. The infected individual may have what appears to be a potbelly. Eggs can also become lodged in the liver, leading to high blood pressure through the liver, enlarged spleen, the buildup of fluid in the abdomen, and potentially life-threatening dilations or swollen areas in the esophagus or gastrointestinal tract that can tear and bleed profusely (esophageal varices). In rare instances, the central nervous system is affected. Individuals with chronic active schistosomiasis may not complain of typical symptoms.

    That's a definite No from me.


  • YOLO.
  • Kidding by the way. I wouldn't dip my toe in that water.
  • gregocgregoc Charter Member
    My gut reaction is a big NO, but then again I have swum MIMS after a heavy rain.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    Would it change if this type of swim were your only open water option for 2-3 years?

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • edited April 2014
    Would you rob a bank if you knew you could get away with it?

    Would you deal drugs if it was the only way to feed your family?

    What would you risk?

    People make these decisions every moment of every day. Not to go Hyde Park Corner here, but it is an argument that I use against the death penalty. "Did you know that swimming in Daytona, FL carries the death penalty? (I make up a stat) people get munched by sharks there every year, and yet people still swim there. Why? Because they don't think it is going to happen to 'me'!"

    I don't know you and I don't have the right to say it, but I'm going to anyway. It seems like your mind is made up. Your ego (which I do not use in a pejorative sense) is telling you that "it's not going to happen to me" because deep inside every ego is the knowledge that this whole world does, indeed, revolve around "me". It's sort of the "Last night I dreamed I was a butterfly, today I wonder if I am that butterfly and this 'existence' is but that butterfly's dream."

    And besides, if I do catch it, I can beat it!

    People here swim with sharks, and if the shark decides to... How is this bug worse than that? (I'm advocating for the devil here.)

    Beyond this... IF there is a pill that will kill this worm, then what if you ground up a goodly supply into a grease that you slather over your zinc grease (the zinc to keep you from absorbing the ground up pills) and that way wormy gets a dose on the way in and dies (kind of like the ticks do on my dogs) and or if you take the pills prophylactically and so wormies first suck on your hostly blood is the dose that makes him ghost? Is there a "Kevlar" body suit that could protect you (hey at least for the training runs)

    Neither Dr. nor Psychologist are I. Engineer pas plus.

    But if you're there for 2-3 years, you're going to go swimming. And each time you come out of the water without a hole made by a worm, the further through the wormhole you're going to go.

    One more, If you're in Ethiopia for the next 2-3 years, and this is the sort of thing that lives in the water... What about all the stuff that lives on the land looking to kill you dead? Buddy of mine went to Bali, got the Dengue Fever (twice!) and caught a bug up his foot, (he has the worst luck of anybody I know tho'. We've been mates since we were 5, we swam together too, and if there was a way to get hurt, it found him!)

    Please excuse me if you think I've insulted you; it is absolutely not my intention to do so.

    Good luck.
  • minnominno Member
    edited April 2014
    drysuit maybe? be a drag to swim in but it has one less way in than a prophylactic :)

    Be safe

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    Some swims are not meant to be done.

    And that is OK. Plenty of water around.
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    gregoc said:

    My gut reaction is a big NO, but then again I have swum MIMS after a heavy rain.

    Yup. Been there and done that knowing that a long night may be ahead. God bless the IGG shot and Keflex prophylaxis I started a few days ahead.

    Holambra, Brazil had me seeing stuff I ate in 11th grade.
  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandNew Member
    edited April 2014
    taking an unnecessary risk with your health has consequences for your family as well as yourself ....
    a big no from me also

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate, tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member
    Lynne Cox swimming in the Nile comes to mind...she said she should've never done that!

    For me, it's part of the reason why I'm not pining to do MIMS.

    I rather enjoy swishing the clean(er)...relatively ;-) ocean water around in my mouth.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    Thanks. Much more response here than on my blog! I knew it.

    No, I don't plan on swimming in any of Ethiopia's lakes, sadly. I just wish they didn't have those bugs in them because they sure look pretty. Of course, some of them have hippos, too, so that's potentially even worse.

    @Dredpiraterobts (excellent forum name btw), you did not insult me. My skin is very thick (not thick enough for schistosomiasis, alas), so no worries.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member
    I got incredibly ill after a swim, for reasons too lengthy to go into here, and had all of those symptoms. My fever would go from 97 to 103 within minutes, then back down, then up, etc.
    Blood tests revealed that my white blood cell count was dangerously low and I felt it. Having felt that, I would definitely say no. It was misery for me, and more important, scary for my family.
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
  • RanieRanie Orinda, CAMember
    No, there are plenty of beautiful places left to swim. Health is too precious, and the risks are too hard to predict. Find another beautiful NatGeo swim location.
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    Bacteria I'm not that afraid of. Viruses, yes. Parasites, definitely yes.

    Swimming in sewage contaminated water = I'd have to consider how much sewage + how much water. I'd also make damn sure my shots are up to date first.

    Swimming in parasite-infested water (including schistosomiasis) HELL NO.

    Plenty of other spots on this planet to dip my toe in.
  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    I'm afraid this is exactly what I did when crossing Lake Malawi in 2013 as @Niek said, although it didn't feel like the life-or-death risk that is presented here, and I don't think it was.
    Lake Malawi is home to schistosomiasis/bilharzia which is fairly easy to treat - just 1 or 2 pills flushes out the system. Many people take the treatment on a yearly basis just by way of prevention. (@IronMike, is it bilharzia you're referring to?)

    When I swam Lake Malawi I did not feel I was taking an unreasonable risk (after all I'm a father of four) but very much a calculated one, and quite limited at that - I made sure to take the pills afterwards. I let my children swim and play in Lake Malawi ( very difficult to keep them away from that beautiful water), but made sure to have them flush their systems once or twice a year. The real danger with bilharzia is when it festers on undetected, which happenened to me once in 2008, when an infestation of 17(!) parasite eggs was discovered in my lungs during a routine yearly check-up/X-ray - half a year later and the infestation could have ended up in my brain, with me in a wheelchair or worse.

    Such dangers are also a matter of perception. I feel bilharzia is a calculated risk, and something that I control - anybody wishing to cross tropical fresh water bodies will have to deal with it.
    I would find it mentally much more challenging to swim in waters with active Great Whites or potentially lethal jellyfish, like box jellyfish.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    @MvG, I was talking about schistosomiasis and the lakes of Ethiopia. Check my PM I sent you.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • NedNed Charter Member
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