People in a large swimming pool at a theme park.

It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, the temps are high and you are diving into a crisp, clean pool. And as the water washes over you, so do millions of dirty microorganisms.  Not so refreshing anymore, is it?

Recently a good friend of mine was on vacation at a very nice resort in Florida. As she and her three children arrived at the pool, she overheard this exchange between a four year old and her father: “Daddy, I have to go potty.” To which dad responded, “Can’t you just go in the pool?” Needless to say, my friend and her family chose an alternate recreational activity that day.

The trouble with community pools, whether in a small neighborhood or a five star resort, is that you can’t see everything that goes on in them.  Obviously if the water in the pool looks cloudy or murky, you’d be wise to stay out.  However, the water can appear clean, but really isn’t.  Another source of a false sense of security can be the smell of chlorine – a well maintained pool should not produce a strong chlorine smell, which usually indicates that there is an underlying problem.

So, what are the risks of diving into these deceptively un-murky waters?  A whole litany of problems categorized as recreational water illnesses (RWIs) such as gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear and skin infections.   Ominously, in a recent poll conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council, 1 in 5 Americans admitted to peeing in a swimming pool.

WebMD provides a list of things you can do to minimize your exposure to the risks of RWIs including the following:

  • Ask the management how often the pool is cleaned and tested.
  • Tell your kids to avoid getting pool water in their mouths.
  • Listen to make sure that the filtering equipment is on.

And while you can’t control what other people do, you can choose to be a conscientious citizen of a clean pool by following these CDC  recommendations:

  • Shower before you go in the pool
  • Make your kids take frequent bathroom breaks
  • And please, don’t swim if you are having stomach issues

Bacteria and the potential for infection are unavoidable, so we’re not recommending you get fanatical about avoiding all pools, just be aware of the risks And for everyone’s sake, don’t advise your children to pee in the pool!

We’ll cover the risks of swimming in fresh water lakes and streams, especially in developing countries, in an upcoming post.


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1 Comment

  1. A very educated article. Well done!

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