On vacation it is common for people to spend a lot of time in swimming pools. These are recreational spaces that are conducive to alleviating the sensation of high temperatures. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are diseases caused by germs and chemical substances typical of these places that lead to delicate health conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diseases transmitted in places of aquatic recreation – such as swimming pools, hot tubs or spas, water play areas, or seas, lakes and rivers – can be easily acquired if the water is contaminated with microbes.
The most common symptoms caused by diseases transmitted by swimming pool water are diarrhea, otitis, fungal infections and some skin conditions. However, these conditions are preventable with simple measures that can be implemented by the general public, staff, and public health authorities.
The ideal water temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius, the chlorine level in the water should be 1 to 3 parts per million, and the pH should be 7.2 to 7.8. Pool maintainers have a duty to check sanitizer and pH levels at least twice a day to decrease the chances of transmitting germs. Meeting these characteristics is the first line of defense against infections transmitted by recreational waters.
Most common pool-related ailments
Diarrhea is the most common waterborne disease at aquatic recreation sites. Infections are transmitted by accidentally swallowing pool water that has been contaminated with fecal matter from a person who has traces of feces on their body after getting into the water.
Although chlorine is capable of destroying these germs, by not acting immediately there may be a time when some of these bacteria are still alive. Even the best-maintained pools can spread disease.
For this reason, experts say that you should not swim when you have diarrhea. It’s a simple recommendation, but especially important for children in diapers. Likewise, you should avoid swallowing the pool water and getting it into your mouth (it is not sterilized; despite the chlorine, it is not suitable for human consumption).
Whenever a person leaves the aquatic space, it is important that they wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and perhaps the most basic and necessary advice is to always shower before and after swimming.
It is an infection of the external part of the ear, very common and related to the use of recreational water, which can appear at any age. Symptoms usually appear a few days after swimming and can include itching inside the ear, redness and swelling, pain when pressure is exerted on the ear, and in some cases pus. The disease usually appears when water remains in the ear canal for long periods, creating an environment conducive to the growth of germs.
Professionals from the Otolaryngology Service of the University Hospital of Torrevieja maintain that children are more prone to suffering from this type of infection, apart from having a narrower canal and much more delicate skin. In addition, they are the members of the family that spend the most time in the water.
“In external otitis, pain is an almost constant symptom. There is pain when the pinna is moved, when it is pressed in front of the ear, or when it is chewed. We can also see secretion in the external auditory canal”, explained Aurora López, head of the Otorhinolaryngology Service.
To avoid contracting this condition, you should wear a swimming cap and earplugs or molds adapted for the ears, in order to allow water to enter. On the other hand, it is important to towel dry your ears well after swimming or showering, and tilt your head to the sides so that your ears are in a position that allows water to drain out of the ear canal.
This is an infection of the skin of the feet caused by a variety of different fungi. The most common location is between the first and second toes, but it can affect any part of the foot.
It is spread by contact with infected or fungus skin in moist areas such as showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools. Although it is normally cured with creams, hygiene is very important for its prevention. Experts recommend keeping your nails short, clean and not walking barefoot through humid spaces.