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Swimming Safety

By Heather L. Zimmerman, M.D.

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Chlorine Doesn’t Guarantee Water Safety

Although chlorine eliminates most germs in pool water, there are some germs that remain. According to pediatricians at Boys Town Pediatrics, chlorine does not kill all the germs of infectious diarrhea. The water can become contaminated if a person with infectious diarrhea swims in the pool, even if he or she doesn’t have an accident in the water. And, it is possible for the germs to pollute the water up to two weeks.

When a person accidentally swallows contaminated pool water, he or she may get diarrhea that lasts just a few days or several weeks. Young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should be the most cautious as infectious diarrhea can be especially serious.

Lower the Risk of Getting Sick While Swimming

According to Boys Town Pediatrics, there are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of becoming sick from water activities, including:

  • Don’t allow your child to swim if he or she has diarrhea.
  • Remind your child that there are germs in the pool and not to drink the pool water.
  • Have your child use the restroom before getting into the pool. If swimming for a lengthy period of time, be sure to take your child to the restroom periodically.
  • Make sure your child washes his or her hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom and before re-entering the pool.
  • Never change your child’s diaper poolside as germs can contaminate surfaces and items around the pool, spreading disease.
  • Always cleanse your child’s diaper area thoroughly with soap and water before going swimming. Older children should shower thoroughly before swimming.
  • If you see feces in the water or notice a child having his or her diaper changed poolside, be sure to tell a lifeguard. Such actions could spread disease.

Swim diapers or swim pants are not 100% effective against leakage. If your child has diarrhea, do not expect these products to stop leaks from entering the pool.​