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What's swimming in your pool?

What else is swimming in the pool besides you?

Have you ever gone to a swimming pool and thought the smell of chlorine was especially strong that day? Contrary to popular belief, a strong scent does not mean the pool is extra clean.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released information that a strong chlorine smell is actually a warning sign that the chemicals aren’t as effective as they should be.

“The job of pool chemicals is to kill germs,” according to the CDC. “But when pee, poop, sweat and dirt rinse off our bodies and into the pool water, the chemicals break down those things instead of killing germs. This uses up the chemicals’ power, which means there’s less to kill germs.” Now you know why showering before swimming is so important. In fact, a one-minute shower is all it takes to remove most of the dirt and germs from your body.

Chlorine-resistant infections

Unfortunately, chlorine doesn’t kill all bacteria in a pool. Cryptosporidium, a parasite, is the most common culprit of diarrhea outbreaks caused by swimming pools.

“Cryptosporidium can be chlorine-resistant for up to 10 days,” said Dr. Genevieve Brauning of Novant Health South Park Family Physicians in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If a swimmer with diarrhea gets into the water, he or she can contaminate the entire swimming pool with the parasite and other swimmers can be infected.”

Norovirus and E. coli can also be found in some swimming pools that have been treated by chlorine.

The CDC reported that illnesses from swimming pools are spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water. The illnesses include gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. Brauning noted the most common illnesses from swimming pools result in diarrhea.

Red eyes

Are your children coming home from the swimming pool with red, stinging eyes? That isn’t from chlorine, either. Red eyes are caused by chemicals that form when chlorine mixes with urine, fecal matter, sweat and dirt, according to the CDC. In addition to red eyes, those chemicals can also make your nose run and give you a cough.

Helpful tips

Keep these CDC tips in mind when swimming in a pool this summer:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before you get into the water.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.

Published: 7/20/2015