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‘The Doctors’ share the risks of summer swimming

Public swimming pool
Public swimming pool
Photo credit: Getty Images

During the May 23 episode of ‘The Doctors’, the panel warned of potential health related dangers of swimming in public pools and natural bodies of water. From bacterial infections to reported cases of death, ‘The Doctors’ share how to protect against water related infection.

Public swimming pools

Many people are under the impression that chlorine in swimming pools protects them against coming in contact with germs and bodily waste from others when in fact there is more of a risk when chlorine is present. Pools are chlorinated to prevent pathogenic organisms from forming. Pathogens are organism that are harmful to the human body and can cause disease.

When chlorine mixes with sweat and uric acid (found in urine) it creates airborne contaminants. These volatile contaminants can cause issues in the lungs, heart, and central nervous system.

The Center for Disease Control conducted a study in 2013 on the cleanliness of public swimming pools and the results were disturbing. More than half of the pools tested positive for E. coli (fecal matter) carried in the pools by the public. The CDC suggests E. coli was carried into the pool by swimmers who fail to clean themselves thoroughly before entering the pool.

How to protect yourself

The CDC recommends pool goers and parents of small children take their precautionary steps to prevent infection: Do not shower when you have diarrhea, shower with soap before entering a pool, take bathroom breaks every hour, wash hands with soap after using the restroom and changing diapers.

The CDC also recommends checking the chlorine and PH levels before entering the water. Most hardware stores and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips. Proper chlorine levels should test at 1–3 mg/L or parts per million and pH levels should read between 7.2–7.8 which will indicate maximum germ-killing power.

Freshwater swimming

A couple appeared on the show shared their story of losing their 7-year-old son from a freshwater amoeba that entered the child’s body while swimming in a lake. Just days after the Lewis’ family vacation their son began to experience strange symptoms including headaches, fever, vomiting and eventually seizures and hallucinations.

After the child died it was discovered that he developed a brain infection caused by a freshwater amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. There is currently no treatment for this case due to the rarity of the infection.

How to protect yourself

This waterborne parasite is not only found in fresh open waters but is also found in tap water in some parts of the country. The amoeba lives and breeds in fresh water below 80 degrees. The most well known preventative measure one can take is wearing nose plugs during freshwater activities, which includes swimming and water skiing.