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Swimming Safety

Avoiding Bacteria in Pools

The CDC has released the following recreational swimming tips to decrease the chances of bacterial contamination.

  • Try not to swallow the water.
  • Do not go into the water if you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water even without having an "accident."
  • Wash your hands and bottom thoroughly with soap and water after a bowel movement, or changing diapers. (Remember Poppy from Seinfeld who wanted to cook Jerry something special even though he didn't wash his hands after using the toilet? Yuck!) Germs on your hands can end up everywhere, including pool water.
  • Notify the lifeguard if you see fecal matter in the water, or if you see people changing diapers on tables or chairs near the pool area.

For Parents

  • Take your child to the toilet for frequent bathroom breaks. (Waiting until you hear "I have to go" may be too late.)
  • Change diapers in the bathroom, not near the pool or shoreline, because germs can contaminate surfaces around the water.
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially his or her bottom) with soap and water before swimming.
  • Don't count on swim diapers or pants to keep fecal matter from leaking into the water. (These products are not leakproof.)

Look Before You Leap

Pool coloration can provide some key clues about water quality. Here are some warning signs that can indicate a water-safety problem:

  • Foamy buildup in a pool or spa means the water has organic contaminants — not a good thing!
  • A strange color. Pea green can indicate the presence of algae. A slight green or reddish-brown may mean copper, iron or other metals in the water, possibly indicating plumbing or other problems.
  • Pink slimy stuff around railings or edges. This may actually be bacteria and indicate the pool chemicals are out of whack.

Lastly, avoid swimming in the ocean for at least 24 hours after a heavy rain because storm-water runoff from the streets and drainage areas may wash pollution into the water. Also avoid swimming near pipes which act as water-runoff outlets from land-based areas. Hanging out in such water holes is like washing yourself with water used to clean your kitchen floor.