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Rain Changes Everything for Surfers

Each raindrop brings more runoff—and germs—to the ocean.

All summer people talked about the weather.

Some felt that we had a total of two weeks of summer weather, while others were happy to see the gloomy days and hoped that the sun didn't come out in full force.

Last week it seemed like the Weather Gods were making up for lost time with 103-degree heat in the South Bay. 

I had a rough week, and not just because of the heat, so I made plans to go surfing or stand-up paddleboarding or both. I had my heart set on going to The Cove, "locals" be dammed.

But unfortunately for me, when I woke up Monday morning, it was raining. The forecast called for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well. This meant bad water quality.

In fact, Heal The Bay posted a Water Quality Alert on its website Monday morning cautioning beach-goers to stay out of the water for a full 72 hours (that's three days) after the rainfall has stopped.

Although gastrointestinal illness and upper respiratory infections are the most common illnesses associated with bacteria in the water, there are other disease-causing pathogens in the water following rainfall that can make you sick.

Hepatitis A can survive long periods of time in salt water. And, Hepatitis A is more common among surfers — some studies have found it to be three times more likely in a surfer than in average beach-goers.

Bacteria and viruses commonly enter through the mouth, nose, eyes and ears, but can also enter through a small cut. You don't plan on swallowing water when you're surfing, but it does happen from time to time.

The best way to protect yourself from contracting Hepatitis A is to stay out of the water for the full three days after the rain has stopped. The surf may be fantastic during a storm and you may be tempted, but you will also be taking unnecessary risk.

The second way is to go to your doctor and get vaccinated for Hepatitis A. You will receive two injections six months apart, which should protect you for approximately 20 years. Not a bad investment, I say.

Just for the record, I did get vaccinated for Hepatitis A. I have another 10 years or so before I need to worry about it again. But you still won't catch me in the water for at least three more days.

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