How to Avoid E. coli in your Pool

Baby in pool with "poop happens" caption

 

Pool playtime is great family fun, but there are some things to watch out for. Keep reading below to find out why a free water test is one of the most important steps you can take to keep your little ones–and pool–healthy and safe.

58% of public pools contain E. coli.

In a 2013 study, The CDC collected samples of water from pool filters from public pools and tested the samples for genetic material (for example, DNA) of multiple microbes. The study found that 58%of the pool filter samples tested were positive for E. coli, bacteria normally found in human feces. Presence E. coli is an indicator of fecal contamination being present in the water.

What introduces E. coli to pools?

Infants and young children love to spend time playing in the pool. Infants and young children also tend to have accidents. Swim diapers are  not fool proof and fecal matter can leak out. But people may not know that there is another factor that contributes to a contaminated pool–when swimmers don’t shower before they get in.

E. coli is a bacteria that everyone has inside their body and although people don’t like to think about it, people often will have small amounts of E. coli on their skin as well. People typically have about 0.14 grams of poop (about the same amount as a few grains of sand) on their bodies at any given time. Just how not washing your hands can spread germs that make someone sick, not washing your body before taking a swim can lead to shedding the bacteria into the water. The more unwashed swimmers in the pool, the more bacteria that can spread. You can get recreational water illnesses by swallowing, having contact with, or breathing in mists or aerosols from water contaminated with germs.

You might think you don’t swallow pool water, but you probably do… at least a little bit. A 2006 study found that during a 45-minute swim, adults swallowed 37 milliliters or water on average or almost two tablespoons. Children swallowed twice that amount. Once swallowed, germs live in their new host’s gastrointestinal tract until they’re pooed out, beginning the cycle again.

Can the E. coli in the pool actually make anyone sick?

The most common symptoms caused by recreational water illnesses are diarrhea, skin rashes, ear pain, cough or congestion, and eye pain. Diarrhea is the most common recreational water illness and unfortunately people who are already sick with diarrhea can spread it to others when they get in recreational water.

Children are among the most vulnerable.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people who have health problems or take medicines that lower their body’s ability to fight germs and sickness are the most at risk of developing recreational water illnesses.

Here’s what to do about E. coli

The most important you can do for your pool and family’s health is regular water testing and keeping your pool properly balanced. Water testing should be conducted at least biweekly during the cooler seasons and weekly during pool season when it’s in use more frequently.

Proper pool maintenance greatly reduces the risk of several recreational water illnesses, because E. coli will be broken down by EPA-registered sanitizers such as chlorine if levels are maintained correctly. Therefore, inadequate sanitizer levels increase the risk for disease transmission by needlessly exposing healthy swimmers to pathogens that should be killed by the sanitizer.

By routinely checking your water in a routine water test, you can make sure your chlorine levels are the right level to kill pesky E. coli and other germs and render them harmless. Luckily, Poolwerx offers water tests for free! Give us a call or stop by to learn more.

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Other pool health tips from the CDC

The CDC recommends that parents of young children take the following steps:

1. Keep feces and other contaminants out of the water.

  • Do not swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before you start swimming.
  • Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water.
  • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
  • Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet or changing diapers.

2. Check the chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.

  • Proper chlorine levels maximize germ-killing power.

3. Do not swallow the water when you swim.

The CDC recommends that parents of young children also take the following steps:

  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30-60 minutes.
  • Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside where germs can rinse into the water.

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