When you’re on vacation and go for a swim in the hotel pool, you may share the water with dozens of other people. But the chlorine will protect you from their germs, right?
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that it often does not.
There have been hundreds of disease outbreaks in recent years from contaminated pools and hot tubs. They have sickened more than 27,000 people and killed eight, according to the study.1
One of the main culprits is the parasite Cryptosporidium (Crypto for short). It can survive even in well-chlorinated pools.
Crypto is to blame for more than half (58%) of pool-caused illnesses. It can give swimmers gastrointestinal illness. The symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, fever, and weight loss.2
In severe cases, it can even be fatal in people with weakened immune systems.
Treatment usually consists of drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.3
It is most commonly contracted by accidentally swallowing pool water contaminated with crypto.
Other pathogens that can withstand pool disinfectants are:
- Legionella, which are a group of bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease. It leads to severe pneumonia that can be deadly.
- Pseudomonas, which are strains of bacteria that can cause folliculitis (“hot tub rash”) and otitis externa (“swimmers’ ear”).
Both of these bacteria can enter the body through the skin, eyes, or nose. Those most susceptible to Legionella are people 50 and older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung diseases, and those with weakened immune systems.4
How to Protect Yourself From Pool Pathogens
To prevent Crypto, the CDC says you should try to avoid getting pool water in your mouth.
But what about other pathogens that can enter your body through your skin, eyes, and nose?
- Check out inspection scores. Just like restaurants, public swimming pools are inspected. Many post their scores online or near the swimming area. The CDC report said that about 20% of inspections reveal problems.
- Inspect the chlorine levels yourself. Those who maintain pools may not check the water every day. And pool chemistry changes all the time. Even a brief dip in disinfectant levels can lead to contamination.You can buy pool test strips at a hardware, big box, or pool supply store. They cost only about $10 for 100 tests. The strips turn different colors depending on the level of chlorine or bromine in the water. And they register pH. If levels are unsafe, don’t swim.5
- Maintain basic hygiene. If you or a child has an open sore or diarrhea, don’t use the pool. Crypto patients should stay out of the water for two weeks.
One more thing… After getting out of the pool, be sure to shower. This will rinse off the chlorine and other chemicals that can irritate your skin.
Swimming is a great way to stay in shape. And by taking a few commonsense precautions, you’ll stay healthy while enjoying a cool dip.