RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Few parents are taking a simple precautionary measure to keep their children clean before taking a swim, according to a recent poll. The University of Michigan C.S Mott Children’s Hospital surveyed 865 parents with children ages 5 to 12. The results showed that only 26 percent of parents think it’s important to have their children shower BEFORE going into a public pool or water park. Which may be one reason that infections from swallowing, or coming in contact with, contaminated water affect more than 10,000 Americans a year. Where does the contamination come from? Every time we go swimming, we add sweat, urine, invisible fecal matter, lotions, and sunscreens to an already soupy mix of chemicals and bacteria in pool water. All of those react with existing organic matter in the pool, and with the chlorine used to disinfect the water, and those reactions produce potentially toxic disinfection by-products. A study done in 2010 by the University of Illinois, for example, found that pool water becomes contaminated when nitrogen-rich products, such as makeup and sunscreen, mix with the chemicals in the pool and become converted into even more toxic substances.
A pre-swim shower is an effective way to keep some of those contaminants and germs out of the swimming pool (showering afterward is also important), but it seemed to be a foreign concept to the 64 percent of parents in the survey, who were mainly concerned with keeping their children from swallowing pool water. The parents were also asked about their outlook on the basic rules of splash parks and public pools, and 28 percent thought it was the job of the park staff to prevent the water from causing infection. And most parents ignore the chance to get a hygienic pre-swim shower that various water parks provide, the survey shows.
Swimming pool germs and contaminants can be prevented with a few precautionary tips for parents, given by the C.S Mott Children’s Hospital:
• Before swimming, children should be washed thoroughly with soap.
• Children should be taken to the bathroom often to prevent peeing in the pool.
• Diapers should be checked as often as possible.
• Teach children not to swallow or get water near their mouths while playing in the pool.
• DO NOT allow your children to swim if they are sick or have diarrhea.
• Keep in mind that splash parks may not be covered by laws requiring testing for bacteria and chlorine levels.