Can COVID-19 Spread Via Swimming Pools?

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March 18, 2020


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In South Florida, the weather is already warm enough for swimming pool activities, especially as kids are out of school for a prolonged period of time. The good news: There is no evidence that the Coronavirus Disease 2019, COVID-19, can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs, states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But there is a caveat: “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water, the CDC adds. “Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC says.

Nonetheless, both adults and kids at private or public pool gatherings should maintain “social distancing” practices, particularly staying away from people who are coughing and sneezing.

In addition to making sure kids are well-supervised when in the water, the CDC reminds pool operators about potentially unseen health hazards. Chemicals like chlorine are added to pool water to kill germs and stop them from spreading. However, mishandling pool chemicals can cause injuries, the CDC states.

Operators of public pools, hot tubs/spas, or water playgrounds — and owners of residential pools or hot tubs/spas — can take steps to prevent pool chemical injuries, such as reading and following directions on product labels of pool chemicals before using them, the agency emphasizes.

“When swimmers don’t shower before getting in pools, hot tubs/spas, or water playgrounds — or pee in the water — free chlorine (the form of chlorine that kills germs) combines with pee, poop, sweat, dirt, and personal care products,” states the CDC. “This means there is less free chlorine to kill germs and (as a result) unwanted chemical compounds are produced.”

One of those unwanted chemical compounds is a group of irritants called chloramines, which can makes eyes red and sting, skin irritation and rashes, and respiratory problems, the agency states. These chloramines are different from the type of chloramine that is sometimes used to treat our drinking water.

Tips for Healthy Swimming

As far as public pools, hot tubs and spas are concerned, here are tips from the CDC:

  • Check out the latest inspection score assigned to a public pool or hot tub/spa. You can typically find inspection scores online or on-site.
  • Do your own mini-inspection. Use test strips to check disinfectant (chlorine or bromine) level and pH before getting in the water. Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell test strips.
  • Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just one minute helps get rid of most stuff that might be on swimmer’s body.
  • Check yourself! Keep the pee, poop, sweat, blood, and dirt out of the water.
  • Don’t swim or let children swim when sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water. Just one mouthful of water with diarrhea germs can make you sick for up to 3 weeks.

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