Updated 27 November 2013

Public pools: dodge those germs

Swimming is excellent exercise, and the relatively minor health risks of public pools shouldn't put you off - especially if you take these basic precautions.

Public pools (even well-maintained ones) carry a low but significant risk of infection, mostly from human waste, and mostly for diarrhoeal disease.

This isn’t only from defecation accidents; people carry small amounts of faecal matter on their bodies (about 0.14g on average), which can wash off into the water. We also wash off chemicals from the cosmetics and body products we use.

Definitely don't be put off swimming, but take these sensible precautions to help prevent infection:

- Above all, don’t swim if you have diarrhoea.
- Don’t swallow pool water, and keep your eyes closed underwater or wear goggles.
- Don't swim if you have open cuts or sores.
- Have a quick shower just before and after swimming.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks every hour.

Read more about pools and hygiene.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor.

Got a good green tip to share? Email me at or post on the EnviroHealth Forum – if it's a planet-saver, we'll publish it.

Image: Child in pool, Shutterstock

Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.


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