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Beware the germs in pools
A pre-swim shower can help keep swimming healthy for everyone in the pool this summer.
May 28th, 2012
11:38 AM ET

Beware the germs in pools

It's almost the beginning of summer and you know what that means: Swim season is here. But beware. No matter how clean they may look, public pools could have nasty germs lurking in the water causing them to be more like public bathrooms.

A recent survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council found one in five Americans admit to using a public pool for quick relief (urinating) and seven in 10 confessed to skipping a shower before going for a swim.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a pre-swim shower removes sweat, cosmetics and other dirt that could mix with chlorine to create irritants in pool water.

Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said, “These irritants, not the chlorine itself, cause red eyes when we swim and the strong chemical smell of some pools.”

How can this contamination be avoided? Make sure you shower with soap and water before you jump in the water.  Take small children on frequent bathroom breaks.  And make sure you have a lifeguard or operator who frequently makes sure the pH and chlorine levels in the pool are up to standard. Proper levels help keep pools healthy by destroying waterborne germs that can cause diarrhea, swimmer's ear and skin infections.

“Swimming is not a substitute for bathing.  Too many people unknowingly treat the pool as a communal bathtub,” said Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality and Health Council, an independent group sponsored by the American Chemical Council. “It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to shower before you jump in the pool to help keep swimming healthy for everyone in the pool.”

15 things your lifeguard won't tell you

If you are still leery of pool germs, the Water Quality and Health Council is providing free pool test strips this summer so swimmers can check the pH and chlorine levels in their public pools. You can request them here.

Last summer, the Water Quality and Health Council mailed more than 32,000 free pool test strips to swimmers. Data submitted by swimmers across the nation last summer showed that 54% of pools tested had unacceptable chlorine levels and 47% had inappropriate pH levels.

If you'd like more information, visit the CDC’s website for tips on healthy pools.


soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Uncle Jim

    A few floaters never hurt anyone

    May 28, 2012 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gatornuts

      I must admit that I have rubbed a few out in the public pool. I mean, how could I not?

      May 29, 2012 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
  2. Susan

    Thats disgusting. Only trashy people act like that and think thats okay. Thats why I have a pool at my own house.

    May 28, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jt_flyer

      Above ground type doesnt count.

      May 28, 2012 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
    • Mom of Three

      JT–that was funny!

      May 29, 2012 at 01:57 | Report abuse |
    • Sarika

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      September 11, 2012 at 04:49 | Report abuse |
  3. Mark Glicker

    Our community pool gets a bit overworked during the hot summer.

    May 28, 2012 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. PattheCAt

    In Toronto Canada at the Donald D. Sommerville public pool the only way you could get into the pool area was to pass through an autamated shower.

    May 28, 2012 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mom of Three

      That's a great idea. Wish we had one...

      May 29, 2012 at 02:05 | Report abuse |
    • ThibbyCat

      Canada needs to stop coming out with really good ideas. It's making the U.S. look bad. ):<

      May 29, 2012 at 03:43 | Report abuse |
  5. Darj

    Anyone know how to print on here?

    May 28, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. flat

    what i dont get it why ANYONE would use the public hot tub in some apartment complexes. thats about the most disgusting thing i could imagine. someone soaking all their orifices in boiling hot water like a cooking pot and then you joining them. how gross can it get.. (too to mention the handful of people who think its 'hot' to get it on in there)

    May 28, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jake

    Free test strips?!? Talk about wasteful spending. I'm floored.

    May 28, 2012 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • phillip

      Prolly cheaper then hiring people to run around and inspect them.

      May 29, 2012 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
  8. Thomas

    Ewwww.... I balance our home swimming pool and keep it in the ranges that are healthy. I don't think i ever want to swim in these nasty public pools. TO all those that urinate in them – how lazy and sick can you get?

    May 28, 2012 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark Glicker

      It is always a good idea to take a long shower when exiting any pool.

      May 30, 2012 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
  9. svann

    And if your baby is still in diapers PLEASE dont bring him into the pool! You obviously dont trust him not to crap his pants so why would I trust him to not crap in the pool?

    May 28, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mark Glicker

    Local hot tub is well maintained by our complex.

    May 28, 2012 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • plenty

      Eeewwwwwu gross

      May 29, 2012 at 02:02 | Report abuse |
  11. Keksi

    Those Germans again.

    May 28, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. PhilG.

    Just pull the handle when you get out.

    May 28, 2012 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PoolGoer

      I wish there was a sign that said, "It costs $500/$2,000/whatever in water to fill this pool, please don't pee or crap in it!"
      (Along with the automated shower idea! I like that!)

      October 12, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Derphum

    I hate public pools, I wish they would shut them all down

    May 29, 2012 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mom of Three

      Gee, thanks, Moneybags. If you dont like them, don't go. But here? Our public pool provides a ton of recreation and positive activities for kids in the community, as well as a hot tub for seniors who might not otherwise have access to, there is senior water aerobics, and I do hundreds of laps per week. Excuse the rest of us who can't afford a pool. Sheesh.

      May 29, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse |
    • plenty

      for real

      May 29, 2012 at 02:11 | Report abuse |
    • Luna

      And the third area is a Profitable Market; a reachable group of pepole who have specific wants and needs you can meet, AND who are ready, willing and able to pay money in order to meet or satisfy those wants and

      October 12, 2012 at 02:13 | Report abuse |
    • PoolGoer

      If there was a posted fine for dirtying the pool, an automated shower, and a publicly posted sign listing the chemical levels at a certain date, public pools would be just fine. (And if people obeyed swimmer's etiquette.)

      October 12, 2012 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  14. Maude

    Toe fungus survives in the pool for days.

    May 29, 2012 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PoolGoer

      Automated foot shower, fungus detector. If the detector goes off, either you are forced to wear some sort of "feet condoms" or you are banned from the pool.

      October 12, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  15. Greenspam

    Pool water is ok; it's not like there's ever a case where dead body was submerged in the water for days without anyone noticing it, you know?

    May 29, 2012 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • K

      Actually not true, google for a CNN article published June 30, 2011, "Authorities say body found in public pool went undetected for days."

      If that was sarcasm, sorry, little hard to tell online.

      May 29, 2012 at 03:16 | Report abuse |
  16. Mom of Three

    I have to say, since my kids and I have purchased our pool passes (last October), we have been going around four times per week and we've had less illness this year than any in memory. I tell my kids only trash pee in the pool, and since I see them leave to use the bathroom, I'm hoping they're being courteous.

    May 29, 2012 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. nuketim

    Welcome to my OOL.

    As you can see, there is no P in my pool.

    Let's keep it that way....

    May 29, 2012 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lindy

    Come on people. Get a life. Stop worrying so much and enjoy the summer, the pool, and life.

    May 29, 2012 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. sam

    Holy crap, a hundred people jump into a tub of water and the water's not sparkling clean when they get out? STOP THE PRESSES!

    May 29, 2012 at 03:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sam

      There should be no germs in urine. If bacteria is found in urine, it is generally from the contact it makes with skin on the way out. In other words, those bacteria will be in the pool whether someone urinates or not.

      Also, urine is just one of many body fluids. When are people going to complain about the saliva, sweat, mucus, and tears that inevitable leak out of everyone's body into the water? Oh right, wee-wees are icky and eyes are pretty. I forgot how ignorantly shallow the public is.

      May 29, 2012 at 03:20 | Report abuse |
  20. Krista

    I don't understand why _anyone_ would think that it's okay to urinate in a pool. That's so disgusting. My condo assoc has a large beautiful pool, but I almost never see the kids getting out of it to go and use the bathrooms so I have a really hard time convincing myself to use the pool for even though I want to for exercise.

    May 29, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. tif

    I agree that people should shower before entering the pool-especially to have your hair absorb the non -chlorine water first- then it acts as a (small) buffer from the chlorinated/chemical treated water that makes hair green, grungy and slimy. The part about the irritant coming from other sources other than the chlorine is bull. Chlorine is bleach-regardless of other foreign chemicals, its going to burn your eyes, dry your skin, ruin your hair(ask your hairdresser).

    May 29, 2012 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Caroline

    I only use our home pool for the above stated reasons,and when friends and their kids come over,well yes the house gets kinda messy,but get in the loo, hose down in shower,relieve urself then come have fun. We also have a wading pool for rinsing feet of grass clippings before entering. Im not a germaphobe by any means,but respect is what its all about. This living in an all about me society has got to stop

    May 29, 2012 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Compcat

    How do you request the free test strips? When I click on the link that says "request test strips HERE" I get a site for reporting test results, but nothing about requesting strips. (I'm accessing from my phone – maybe site isn't displaying properly?)

    May 29, 2012 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. bob

    I have never used a public pool, the people who use them are nasty!

    May 29, 2012 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rcshore

    Or you could take a swim in the newly built "world's largest outdoor pool," built right next to what was formerly known as the world's largest pool. Oh, the irony.

    http://thedeathofirony.com/2012/05/29/the-deep-end/

    May 29, 2012 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ser

    Please don't pee in our pool....we don't swim in your toilet....

    May 29, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ewpriogperghklk

    i will never swim in public pools ever. news flash! most parents are crappy and their kids don't wipe their butts.

    May 29, 2012 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Fifi

    I have a pool at home but was using a larger lap pool (outdoor) at a health club for swimming miles. The club "required" showers before pool use, and most of the serious swimmers complied. Then warm weather came and the mommies arrived. They'd slather themselves and their brats up with sunscreen and then "lay out" by the pool (why do people bother to try to tan, when they've just put on sunblock?) while the brats splashed around in the water. The greasy mommies would slither into the water occasionally to wash the sweat off. Occasionally, they would bring in their diapered rugrats with thm. The pool water became nearly opaque, and I stopped swimming and quit the membership.

    The club, by the way, also claimed to not allow babies in the pool. God knows what else they lied about.

    May 29, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. America's Swimming Pool Company

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    June 12, 2012 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 13, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Thanks for finding the time to dusicss this, I feel strongly about it and really like learning more about this topic. If possible, while you gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog site with additional information?

    September 11, 2012 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. JAck

    I would strongly aisvde against it. Natatoriums as they are called in the biz are one of the more challenging design problems I have been involved with. I design HVAC systems. I have concluded that an pool is simply the worst thing you could ever put inside a building. As has already been stated, it only works if you are willing to spend a ridiculous amount of money. The short answer is that indoor pools must be maintained at an exact temperature as well as the air. The relationship between the air and water temps has to do with minimizing the evaporation rate of the pool. You simply can't allow excessive moisture in the air. Even still, you must provide a rediculous amount of venilation in the space to remove moisture and chlorine gas. Even the ductwork to provide the ventilation is more expensive because cheaper materials will corrode due to the chlorine. Honestly, you won't get the fine control you need out of a wood stove either unless it's a wood pellet boiler.Just don't do it. It will be a headache for you for sure.

    September 13, 2012 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jubaime

      Hi, good video, but do you realise that as long as your pool gets dircet sunlight too, you're actually better off just throwing the black tubing straight in the pool. Even better, buy a $10 sheet of black plastic a few rocks and put it in the bottom of the pool. No pump required and all heat transferred diredt to the water.

      October 11, 2012 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
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