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Respiratory Problems Associated with Surfing in Coastal Waters

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A pilot project was conducted to examine the health status and possible adverse health effects associated with seawater exposure (microbial water-quality indicators and phytoplankton abundance and their toxins) of surfers in Monterey Bay, Central California coastal waters. Forty-eight surfers enrolled in the study and completed an initial health background survey and weekly health surveys online using Survey Monkey. Descriptive statistics and generalized estimating equation, a regression technique, were used to identify longitudinal and correlated results. The surfers were predominately Caucasian, male, and physically active. They surfed approximately 4 h a week. Their average age was 34 years. The data indicated that the surfers were generally "healthy," with a low prevalence of diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Their most common health problems were allergies and asthma. During the study, 10% of the surfers reported gastrointestinal symptoms and 29% reported upper respiratory symptoms. This study suggests surfers were significantly more likely to report upper respiratory symptoms when they had a history of allergies, housemates with upper respiratory symptoms, and/or a history of previous adverse health symptoms while surfing during a "red tide" (an event often associated with the presence of phytoplankton toxins). Additionally, female surfers reported upper respiratory symptoms more than males.

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