How to Protect Yourself From Pool-Related Germs

The Cryptosporidium, or crypto parasite, continues to be the leading cause for the majority of outbreaks and illnesses related to pools and water playgrounds, according to a recent CDC press release. (Image:   pxhere /  CC0 1.0)
The Cryptosporidium, or crypto parasite, continues to be the leading cause for the majority of outbreaks and illnesses related to pools and water playgrounds, according to a recent CDC press release. (Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

If you like traveling, then you will be among the many who also enjoy the amenities of the hotels you stay at. The tubs in the spa, the pools, or the water playgrounds for kids that offer hours of well-deserved downtime for busy parents.

However, the Cryptosporidium, or crypto parasite, continues to be the leading cause for the majority of outbakes and illnesses related to pools and water playgrounds, according to a recent U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) press release. In fact, they cause 58 percent of the outbreaks related to cases where a germ was identified and linked to pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. Efforts are reportedly being made to find more effective ways of preventing outbreaks caused by germs spread through treated recreational water.

(Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Crypto parasites cause 58 percent of the outbreaks related to cases where a germ was identified and linked to pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. (Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Swimming, parasites, and hotels

One in three swimming-related disease outbreaks occurs at hotels, says the CDC. The reason is, the so-called crypto parasites — like Pseudomonas and Legionella — are tough enough to even survive in well-maintained pools. So, no reason to compartmentalize any hotels or places do to reports of swimming-related disease outbreaks there. It’s just that these before mentioned parasites are capable of surviving environments that we deem clean.

Where the potentially contagious bacteria live 

“Chlorine cannot kill crypto quickly. We need to keep it out of the water in the first place,” said Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.

(Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Chlorine cannot kill crypto quickly. (Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Pseudomonas and Legionella can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools, and water playgrounds. Swallowing just a mouthful of water with crypto in it can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Swimmers and parents of young swimmers play a big role.

“Don’t go into the water, and don’t let your kids go into the water, if sick with diarrhea,” said Hlavsa. “People who suffer from diarrhea and go swimming in public places run the danger of exposing other people to harmful bacteria. By swallowing and ingesting the affected water, one exposed oneself to the pathogens.”

(Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Pseudomonas and Legionella can survive disinfectants in slimy areas of hot tubs, pools, and water playgrounds. (Image: pxhere / CC0 1.0)

Who is at risk?

Some people are more likely to get sick from Legionella than others, including people 50 years or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease, and people with a weakened immune system.

These people should see a doctor right away if they develop pneumonia symptoms. The CDC also suggests they let their doctor know about any possible exposures to Legionella, including any recent hot tub, pool, or water playground use. 

Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family from pool germs

The following steps can protect you and those you love from germs the next time when swimming in pools, soaking in hot tubs, or visiting water playgrounds:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if you or they have diarrhea. If crypto is the cause of the diarrhea, wait until 2 weeks after the diarrhea has stopped to go swimming.
  • Check the pools, hot tubs, and water playground inspection scores.
  • Before getting in the water, use a test strip from your local retailer or pool supply store to check if the water’s pH and bromine or free chlorine levels are correct.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks hourly, and change diapers in a diaper-changing area away from the water.

For an even better result, many suggest reminding your friends and other family members to also follow the above suggestions.

Facilities in the aquatic sector are also encouraged to inform themselves about the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), meant to give those in the aquatic sector a guide to better design, construct, operate, and manage recreational water facilities.

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