Many swimmers are getting sick in hotel pools, hot tubs and even water parks as they travel abroad despite chlorine treatment as standard protocols for pool maintenance.
Did you know that within a 15 year period, more than 30,000 people in the United States have gotten sick and up to a dozen people have died from some common germs found in swimming pools. It also seems that the problem is worsening as we discover more resistant germs and bacteria that antibiotics just can’t treat anymore.
The outbreaks we speak of are caused by Cryptosporidium, Legionella and Pseudomonas which can cause diarrhea, skin infections and lung infections. Hotel pools are responsible for up to 35% of outbreaks and are the leading location for problems. Most of the outbreaks and illnesses resulting from a day at the pool were the result of the Crypto parasite that is hard to kill with chlorine and also known to be highly contagious. Crypto symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, pain, fever, cramps and of our favorite, diarrhea.
People are getting sick because of inadequate disinfectant levels in pools or because the germs are extremely hard to kill even with aggressive water treatment.
The best way to avoid this particular germ is to not swallow or ingest pool water.
We always advise people never to to go in the pool if they have active diarrhea or to let their children into the pool if they have diarrhea. If an aquatics director including lifeguards are on their “A” game and notice someone with diarrhea or witness an accident in the pool, they will shut the pool down according to local health department rules and regulations so don’t ruin it for others if you are sick with diarrhea.
Do not go into a pool if you have active diarrhea and do not allow your children to swim with active diarrhea!
If you are unsure about the condition of the pool you are visiting, you can always purchase and bring along test strips to figure out if a pool has enough chlorine or bromine, which are used to kill germs. The cost for such strips is about $10.00 for 100 and can be purchased at a pool supply store or online (Amazon). Learn to read the strips as they change colors according to the pH level in the pool.
You can’t always assume that the pool maintenance crew at a hotel or resort has taken care of everything so we encourage everyone to take a more active role to swim happier and healthy.
If you have a respiratory condition, a weakened immune system, or other risk factors, it’s a good idea to avoid being in or around hot tubs!
While the Cryptosporidium cases have not risen in awhile, cases of Legionnaires disease, which is caused by the Legionella bacteria has increased at a rate of approximately 14% each year. Although far less common than Crypto, Legionnaires disease is a dangerous respiratory ailment that occurs when people inhale the bacteria in an aerosol form. Many of the reported deaths were due to Legionella outbreaks.
Hot tubs are a major concern as they have jets that aerosolize the water and if that water is contaminated, there is the risk that you may be inhaling the Legionella bacteria. People who are 50 years of age or older, who smoke, have a respiratory condition or have a weakened immune system due to cancer, a transplant or other health condition may be at higher risk of illness.
If a pool or a water park initiates an emergency shutdown due to a “diarrheal episode”, understand they are attempting to keep their guests safe while they shock the water to increase chlorine levels to kill any and all potential germs.
Please keep in mind that Crypto is very tolerant to chlorine and once in a pool, it is very difficult to get out of the pool. It can survive for days in a well-chlorinated pool. When it comes to Crypto, it only takes a person to swallow 10 or fewer Crypto germs to become infected. The scary part is that people with active diarrhea can release up to 10 million to 100 million Crypto germs in that incident. Pretty disgusting huh?
So if you are traveling abroad for the holidays, just remember this very important blog. Stay healthy and happy swimming!!