Don’t get sick while taking a dip: Protect yourself from swimming-related germs

During a day at the pool, you wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, but what do you do to prevent an infectious disease? The public water we swim in, from hot tubs to water playgrounds, can contain germs that can make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at inspection information for public aquatic venues in five states. In 1 in 8 of the inspections, swimming was shut down immediately because of health and safety concerns. Kiddie and wading pools were the highest offenders.

But, wait, you may say. Aren’t these pools being treated? Although chlorine is widely used to kill dangerous germs, some bacteria have developed strong tolerance and can live for hours or even days in chlorinated waters. They can cause diarrhea and infections of the eyes, ears, chest and lungs.

So how can you protect yourself? Before you head out to your public pool, look up inspection results online. Once you’re at the pool, give the water a good once-over. Make sure you’re swimming in good quality water and that there are no foul odors. Pool water should be clear, with the main drain at the bottom visible. If something doesn’t look right, let someone in charge know, and don’t enter the water.

But it’s not all about the pool. You should never leave the water dirtier than you found it. CDC has steps for swimmers to take to prevent spreading germs:
  • If you have diarrhea, skip the pool until you’re better.
  • Keep your mouth closed underwater and never swallow pool water.
  • Shower with soap before you swim and wash your hands after bathroom breaks.

If you’re a parent, CDC recommends a few more steps:
  • Check diapers and take young kids to the toilet often.
  • Change all diapers away from the pool in the bathroom or changing room.
  • Wash your children with soap, especially around their bottoms, before they swim.

For more tips, check out CDC’s steps for healthy swimming

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