ARE POOLS AWASH WITH DANGER BUGS?
Dr. Miriam Stoppard
"MY kids love swimming in summer but I dread their going to the public pool because it's always so crowded.
How can it be clean? And if it is, don't they use excess chlorine to keep germs at bay?
Won't that be bad for my children? They always come home with red, inflamed eyes.
Should I just let them enjoy themselves regardless, or do you think the public pools are a health hazard?"
Dr. Miriam replies...
IN general, no. But people do get sick from the unsanitary condition of their pool water from time to time.
The last thing you want to think about when your kids are swimming is what tiny bugs might be swimming beside them.
But the fact is that any pool could be contaminated with parasites and bacteria, so you could find yourself in casualty with a badly upset stomach or a scary-looking rash.
The main culprit seems to be a parasite called cryptosporidium. If swallowed, it can cause a distressing bout of diarrhoea because it multiplies in the intestines.
Cryptosporidium is highly resistant to chlorine and can survive in pool water for days. E.coli is more sensitive to chlorine and can usually be kept in check with careful pool maintenance.
So what can you do? First, take a close look at the colour and texture of the water. They're good indicators of its cleanliness.
It should be clear enough for you to see through at least 3m of water and distinguish objects such as metal grating on the bottom of the pool.
Then look for foamy or bubbling water along the pool's edge because that's a sign of potential trouble - if present it could indicate excessive organic matter, such as pollen or bacteria.
If the water looks clear enough to get into, the next line of defence is to tell your kids to keep their mouths shut. Kids always swallow water, sometimes in large quantities - along with any bugs that might be in it.
If there are babies round the pool, beware, because changing a nappy, then swimming, can contaminate water. Anyone doing so should wash their hands with soap and water before re-entering the pool area.
Chlorine is still the most popular weapon against contaminated pool water and many public pools are checked every one to three hours, depending on the number of swimmers.
Ask about the frequency of testing at your local pool. Because bugs love warmth, heated pools and jacuzzis need more rigorous testing and higher levels of chlorine.
In summer, with lots of swimmers, higher and higher levels of chlorine are required and they can irritate the eyes.