Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming Pool Safety
Font Size
A
A
A

WebMD Feature

After one child died and 25 people were sickened by a 1998 outbreak of an E. coli strain caused by feces-contaminated water at a park near Atlanta, public health officials and public pool operators were justifiably concerned. The conditions pointed up a growing hazard -- and health officials have since acknowledged that even pool operators with the best intentions, pool maintenance, and response plans can't completely prevent the spread of infectious diseases through water contaminated by germ-carrying feces.

"There's still a lot of education that needs to go on with the public," says Doug Brenner, director of an award-winning aquatics program in Portland, Ore. Swimmers -- especially those with small children -- must practice good hygiene to prevent feces from getting in the pool.

Do we really have to talk about this stuff?

Yes, say health and safety experts. While perhaps not yet socially acceptable, talking openly about "poop in the pool" is important to the public's health. The chance of catching an infectious disease in a well-maintained swimming pool is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But not all pools are properly maintained, and the CDC warns that chlorine can't kill all germs. And crowded lakes can be especially vulnerable to outbreaks of fecal-borne illness.

To protect yourself and your children, choose a swimming pool that has a reputation for being well maintained. The water should be clear, not cloudy. Recently, public pools have faced stricter water quality rules. Plus, to reduce risks, some have improved cleanliness by constantly flushing water through the pool as well as by filtration and disinfection. Ask about the pool's maintenance schedule and whether the pool has a "fecal accident response plan."

Understand that the response will vary by situation. A solid stool found in the shallow end may require only a quick scoop-up. In other cases, especially with diarrhea, a more extensive cleanup is necessary, requiring swimmers to leave the pool and more chemicals to be pumped in.

Tell your kids never to drink the water. Emphasize the importance of keeping their mouths closed even while splashing around.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow