There has been a common misconception that the chlorine in a swimming pool makes your eyes red and itchy after a swim, but a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that it’s the pee.
In collaboration with the Water Quality and Health Council and the National Swimming Pool Foundation for their annual Healthy Swimming Program, the CDC wants to educate everyone about the many possible dangers of pools and what one can do to keep swim as clean and healthy as possible.
Dr. Michael Beach, Associate director of the CDC’s Healthy Water program, said that the cough we get from an indoor pool is caused by the chemical reaction, but the chlorine is not what irritates the lungs, it is the pee.
“Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies, and it forms these chemical irritants. That’s what’s stinging your eyes. It’s the chlorine binding to the urine and sweat,” Beach said in a statement.
Beach also said those that swim while they have diarrhea play a large part in disease outbreaks from public swimming pools. While they don’t have to defecate in the pool, the germs on their body could potentially spread to other people in the pool. This is why the CDC encourages swimmers to shower before getting in the pool.
“We have a new parasitic germ that has emerged that’s immune to chlorine,” said Beach.
“We’ve got to keep it out of the pool in the first place. We need additional barriers,” he added.
The CDC said in a statement that the misconception that chlorine just eliminates all germs upon contact with water is not true. Germs in the pool can actually be eliminated with the help of chlorine and most bacteria such as E. Coli can be killed in less than a minute and Hepatitis A, in at least 16 minutes. However, the parasite Cryptosporidium can last in the swimming pool for over 10 days even in the presence of chlorine.
In order to prevent illnesses, the CDC advises to keep germs out of the pool in the first place and to follow these steps:
- Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
- Shower before you get in the water.
- Don’t pee or poop in the water.
- Don’t swallow the water.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks.
- Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–not poolside–to keep germs away from the pool.
- Reapply sunscreen.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.