In this article I address the health issues we are exposed to when using public pools and how to minimize the risks. This article well help you to keep healthy swimming in public pools
Public pools are just that ‘public’ and used by many people, but it’s not so much the old band-aids that float past you while you do your laps that is really the major problem, rather it is what you can’t see with the naked eye that raises health concerns.
Public pools are and have to be, treated with heavy loads of toxic chemicals and even this doesn’t stop all the bugs.
Why Gastro Outbreaks Occur In Public Pools
The other health concern of public pool swimming is the biological toxins commonly known as ‘germs’
One person has the ability to contaminate an entire swimming pool with gastro type illnesses caused by the following Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and E. coli.
As squirm worthy as this is, did you know that all it takes is someone to enter the pool with a tiny bit of contaminated fecal matter still on their body e.g. think a baby with a dirty diaper, or someone who has recently had a stomach upset.
You are probably thinking right now, but how is this possible? Chlorine kills all the germs. Yes Chlorine eventually can kill most germs, but this gastro bug can live in pool water for days. – See Swimming Pools Infection Control
Public Pools Are Like Swimming In A Bath Of Chemicals
Then on the other hand your have the problem of too much Chlorine being used in public pools.
Chlorine is a toxic chemical and can be a major health hazard as well as a serious environmental pollutant. Chlorine has the ability to combine with body proteins e.g sweat and urine to form Chloramines.
Exposure To Chloramines
Chloramines can irritate the mucous membrane, cause your eyes to sting and cause serious breathing problems. There have been studies showing that children who swim regularly in heavily chlorinated pools have an increased risk of developing asthma.
Yes it is completely understood how dangerous Chlorine is, yet it is still allowed and if we all want to swim together in public pools, unfortunately it is needed.
Why Chlorine Is Still Used Despite The Health Hazards
Chlorine has to still be used, as to-date, there is still no better alternative, that is as effective at killing bacteria in pools as Chlorine. Public Pools really have little choice, they legally must do everything they can to minimize illnesses being spread between swimmers. If we choose to swim together with other people in a relatively small, man-made body of water, then it in imperative the water is treated.
Salt Water Pools Still Have Chlorine & Other Dangerous Chemicals
Do not be fooled into thinking that salt-water pools do not contain Chlorine, they do. Salt-water pools deliver a continuous stream of Chlorine via means of a specialized generator containing salt, as opposed to manually adding Chlorine. The significant difference is that salt-water Chlorinated pools shouldn’t contain high levels of Chloramines, but there are other concerns that these pools instead, produces a hazardous disinfection by-product called Trihalomethanes(THM’s), mainly in the form of Bromoform, which is a confirmed carcinogen in animal studies.
Easy Tips To Minimize The Health Risks Of Public Pools
Well basically it comes down to this… it is entirely up to us as to how often we choose to expose ourselves and our families to pool water.
We need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s; e.g. children for safety reasons should all learn to swim and these lessons are held in indoor public pools, but maybe we should reduce the amount we go swimming in public pool’s just for fun, or exercise?
Below I have provided you with simple tips to help you minimize yours and your families exposure to bugs such as Cryptosporidiosis and other stomach bugs and also to hazardous levels of Chlorine and Chloramines.
Stomach Bugs and Public Pool Infections Control
If you have had a stomach bug e then you should be very careful as according to this Swimming Pools Infection Control and this important information sheet from the Victorian Government Health Department on Cryptosporidiosis and Public Pools
To avoid the spread of stomach bugs such as Cryptosporidiosis, it is crucial you take preventative measures
- If you have had any type of stomach bug at all, you should not go swimming for two weeks after your last bout of diarrhea, as Cryptosporidiosis can still be present in your system and if you have even a microscopic amount of feces on your body then you can infect the entire public pool.
- Do not go swimming if you have been exposed to someone in the family with a stomach virus, or diarrhea in the previous week or while someone in your family is sick with a stomach bug.
- Although hardly anyone does this, it is in every-one’s best interests to shower and especially wash well with soap and water around the anal area before swimming in a public pool.
- Babies and toddlers in swim nappies, should be wear a tight fitting clean swim nappy and if at any stage they poo, then they should be as quickly as possible removed from the pool and washed properly then changed into another clean swim nappy. If they have a loose bowel movement while swimming, then do not go back in pool and immediately inform the the swimming center about this.
- If you develop stomach virus symptoms after swimming, even if a few days later then notify your swimming pool, so they can test the water and take preventative measures in necessary.
Reducing your Exposure to Chlorine and Chloramines in Public Pools
If there is an overwhelming smell of Chlorine when you enter a public pool, there is either a very bad ventilation system in place and/or a high level of Chloramines. This shows that the pool system is not optimal and it is wise to find a less pungent pool to swim.
- Indoor pools that are enclosed in a smallish area should be avoided. Try to choose a pool that has high ceilings and lots of space around the pool area and that also has a good ventilation system in place.
- Always try to shower and wash you hair straight after swimming in public pools. It is also best to avoid very hot showers, as these open the pores of the skin and your skin will absorb even more of what is on its surface.
- Swimming in Nature is far healthier. In summer you are truly better taking a dip in a clean & unpolluted beach than paddling in a public pool. Another alternative if you like the feel of being in an enclosed swimming space, rather than the open sea, is to visit fenced in sections of the sea called ‘Sea Baths’.
- Try to minimize the amount you and your family swim in highly chlorinated pools. Every day swims exposure you to high levels of Chloramines.
- When it comes to young children, it is best to consult a pediatrician about the risks of chlorine exposure. If you or your child suffer from any form of breathing difficulties, or suppressed immune system, it would be wise to consult a medical professional before visiting a public pool.
- If the water is cloudy do not go in. The same goes, if the pool sides, or bottom feel slimy etc. You should also be able to hear the filter system working. You have every right to ask the management at your public pool how they sanitize and filter the pool water.
- Not easy to do but…try as best as you can to stop your children from swallowing/drinking the pool water.
- Outdoor public pools are a much healthier option to indoor pools, as you are constantly surrounded by fresh air and the wind blows away many of the Chloramines.
Important – Outdoor pools should be avoided when the air is very still and there is no breeze , as according to studies done, still air combined with high pool walls create a blanket effect called ‘hyper-chlorination’, which is very unhealthy.
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