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© Alex Mellon / Culture Trip
© Alex Mellon / Culture Trip

Pee Isn't the Only Gross Thing in Your Pool Water

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 31 October 2017

Who doesn’t love a cool dip in a swimming pool on a hot summer day? Well, recent news may make you think twice before you take a gulp of even the cleanest pool water. Between parasites and human waste, pools are apparently teeming with icky things you can’t see.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found an uptick in outbreaks caused by Cryptosporidium (“Crypto”) linked to American swimming pools and water playgrounds. Crypto infection is caused by ingesting the parasites that carry it. Most people ingest the parasites by drinking contaminated water, eating uncooked food, coming in contact with a person who is already infected, or swimming in a contaminated pool and accidentally swallowing the water. According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Crypto include diarrhea, fever, lack of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting.

In its report, the CDC says there were at least 32 outbreaks linked to the parasites last year. That number is about double the number of outbreaks reported in 2014.

Photo: tpsdave/Pixabay

“To help protect your family and friends from Crypto and other diarrhea-causing germs, do not swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea,” Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said in a statement. “Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim.”

And parasites aren’t the only thing you need to worry about swallowing in your pool water. You know that strong smell of chlorine? And how, sometimes, after a couple of hours of swimming your eyes are red and irritated? Well, it’s not the chlorine causing the smell and irritation — it’s actually human waste. When chlorine combines with urine, the chlorine smell becomes more pronounced and the water begins to irritate the eyes, nose, and sometimes skin.

“Chlorine and other disinfectants are added to a swimming pool to destroy germs,” Hlasva said in a statement accompanying a 2015 fact sheet.”Peeing in a pool depletes chlorine and actually produces an irritant that makes people’s eyes turn red.”

Photo: eLaba/Pixabay

Basically, people are gross and so are pools. So try not to swallow the water and, if you do, be on the lookout for some pretty gnarly symptoms. The earlier you identify the symptoms and get to a doctor, the better you’ll fare in the end.