Is the Swimming Pool Making You Sick?

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

You’ve just had a great time at the pool, splashing around with the kids or swimming laps, but a couple hours later you suddenly feel ill. The cause may unfortunately be no other than your neighborhood pool or water park.

Contrary to popular belief, chlorine (which comes with its own set of problems but that’s a post for another day) does not kill all germs and pool filters cannot eliminate the remaining chlorine-resistant bacteria and amoebas found in pools. These germs cause Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI) which are spread by swallowing or inhaling pool water recently. There are various kinds of gastrointestinal, eye, throat, and ear infections caused by RWIs, but diarrhea is the most commonly reported illness identified after a dip in the pool. 

Now, the benefits of swimming for full body cardiovascular exercise and relaxation are far too great to take my cautionary message toward RWIs as a message to stop you or your family’s aquatic activities. Instead, simply take these steps to lower your chance of RWI infection.

1.    Always shower before going into a pool.
2.    Don't swim when you have an upset stomach or diarrhea.
3.    Avoid swallowing pool water or putting it in your mouth.
4.    Try to always wear goggles, especially if you are swimming underwater and wish to open your eyes. This is particularly relevant if you wear contact lenses. Never wear contact lenses in the pool. An investment in prescription goggles can save your sight. There are amoebas and bacteria that can get trapped under your contact lenses which can lead to infection and possible blindness.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever been ill after going to the pool?


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