Keeping yourself safe from pool parasites

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Keeping yourself safe from pool parasites

Swimming in a chlorinated pool or taking a relaxing break while lounging in a hot tub is generally considered safe.  Think again. Whether you’re taking a dip in a community center, gym or even a fancy resort, people can and do get sick from various pool parasites.

Most people or families looking for some pool-time fun may be surprised at what could potentially be lurking beneath the surface.  We often assume public pools are kept clean and abide by strict standards but according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2011-2012, there were 90 outbreaks causing 1,788 illnesses and one death from outbreaks of illnesses from pools and hot tubs.

Before taking that jumping leap into deep end of the pool or spending time soaking up bubbly warm water in a hot tub, be sure to know what could be swimming with you at the same time:

·      Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium or “Crypto” for short, this parasite has become one of the leading causes of pool-related illnesses. This parasite causes diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea with the symptoms sometimes lasting up to two weeks.  The parasite ends up in water if feces (even trace amounts from someone who didn’t shower first) of an infected person gets in the pool.  Protected by an outer shell that allows the parasite to survive for up to 10 days even in chlorine-treated water, even well-maintained pools can spread crypto among swimmers.

How to protect yourself:

·      Stay out of the pool 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 every hour

·      Check diapers and change them in a bathroom or diaper changing area – not poolside 

·      Giardia

This microscopic parasite is found on surfaces or in contaminated soil, food, or water.  Like crypto, it also is protected by an outer shell allowing it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and is resistant to chlorine.  A person can become infected by giardia through swallowing pool water which is the most common method of transmission.  Some people with giardia infection never develop symptoms but still carry the parasite.  Others will develop symptoms which may include watery, foul-smelling diarrhea, fatigue, cramps and bloating, gas, and nausea.  An infection from this parasite may last from two to six weeks.

How to protect yourself:

·      Same methods as for protecting yourself from crypto

·      Pinkeye

Anyone experiencing burning eyes, excessive tearing and redness may be due to an allergic reaction to chlorine or an infection.  Pinkeye can also happen if people aren’t showering before swimming or are peeing in the pool. Urine, as well as cosmetics and other chemicals that can wash off people’s skin can also be irritating to the eyes.

How to protect yourself:

·      Shield your eyes from infections by wearing a pair of well-fitting googles every time you go in

·      Hot tub rash

This infection of the skin or of the hair follicles known as hot tub rash usually begins within a couple of days after contact with contaminated water.   Signs of hot tub rash are itchy skin or itchy bumps on the skin which progress to form tender red nodules that may contain pus.  Most cases of it are caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an organism found in soil, water, and on plants.  The infection is commonly picked up after swimming in hot tubs or spas, but contaminated swimming pools or lakes may also spread the infection.  The rash is often worse under the areas of skin covered by a swimsuit, since the swimsuit can keep the contaminated water in contact with the skin for a longer period of time. 

How to protect yourself:

·      Reserve your time spent in the hot tub at the end of your pool day. 

·      Remove your swimsuit and shower with soap after getting out of the water

·      Clean your swimsuit after getting out of the water