Have you taken time yet to enjoy some fun in the pool this summer? I bet you can remember the iconic scene in "Caddy Shack" where the notorious candy bar gets tossed into the pool, and within minutes, the camp goers evacuate the pool to the soundtrack of Jaws-like music. On these hot summer days, it makes sense to cool off in the water. But before you head out to the neighborhood pool party or a trip to the waterpark, be sure you're familiar with the recently updated swimming tips from the CDC as well as what to do if someone accidentally "number twos" in the pool.
We often think about pool safety but we don't often think about pool or water cleanliness. To best make sure we stay healthy and safe, we need to make sure the water is clean. And given that a recent survey found 64% of Americans were guilty of tinkling in a pool, you should treat all water, especially with babies around, like it's guaranteed to have pee or poo. I know that may sound gross to some of you but that's the fact.
When it comes to getting sick from the pool, diarrhea is the both the most common culprit and symptom. And although Recreational Water Illness (RWI) can cause infections resulting in tummy aches, ear aches, as well as itchy eyes and skin rashes, diarrhea is the most reported symptom. This is often spread when someone who already has diarrhea gets in the water, or if there is a small amount of fecal contamination. This is usually caused by the tiny germs and bacteria associated with poop. Luckily, most of these germs can be neutralized by chlorinated water within minutes, but some germs can survive even in properly treated water for several days. So it's important to stay out of the water if you are still feeling sick. And it's important to keep your kids out of the pool too if they are not feeling well.
Ever see those signs that say you should rinse off before you get in the pool or water rides? Are you following that guidance? Well you should! I often tell patients that before you do those cannonballs, be sure to rinse off before you jump in. Everyone -- adults and kids -- can quickly get dirty and sweaty playing outside in this warmer weather. However, dirt and sweat can react with chlorine and leave less of it available to neutralize things that can be more concerning like blood, pee, or poo. If you have an open wound, be sure to stay out or cover it with a waterproof bandage. Not sure about the public pool or the waterpark? Here's a simple test: find the deep end of the pool, and make sure you can clearly see the bottom drain. Not only can cloudy water be gross, but it's unsafe when lifeguards can't safely monitor for potential drownings.
After you get in, don't wait until your fingers are pruney to take a break. It's important to try to get everyone out of the pool at least once an hour. And that's not always easy with kids, teenagers, or even some friends and spouses! I've found that tasty summer snacks like watermelon or smoothies can be a nice treat to entice everyone out of the pool for a bit. This gives everyone an opportunity to take a potty break and for you to change those swim diapers on any little ones. (Yes, please use swim diapers and not regular ones!) And here's some good news -- you actually don't have to wait 30 minutes after eating before jumping back in!
Until we find that proverbial dye that turns the water blue when kids (and adults) pee, we need to be alert and maintain cleanliness of water to stay healthy. If someone does have a "Caddy Shack" accident in the pool, be sure you remove it with a net or bucket (not a vacuum), keep everyone out for at least half an hour, and ensure the chlorine concentration is raised. Otherwise, Geronimo!