Hotel pools might sound like an enjoyable part of your vacation, but swimming in them could make you ill. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report linked outbreaks to pools. A type of germ called Cryptosporidium was found to remain in pools even after it was treated with chlorine.
Hotel Pools and Your Health
From 2000 to 2014, a third of outbreaks were linked to hotel pools and hot tubs. Some of these outbreaks started with Cryptosporidium. This parasite causes diarrhea. Other outbreaks were caused by Pseudomonas and the bacteria that makes Legionnaire’s Disease.
Most of the time, germs are killed within minutes of using chlorine. In the case of Crypto, the bacteria lives for seven or more days. It takes more than a week and a lot of chlorine to kill the bug. The disease is spread by diarrhea, which is common for children and babies. If diarrhea happens in a pool, the pool should be cleared of swimmers. It has to be flushed with bromine or chlorine to kill Crypto. Parents have to be extra careful about letting their children swim in the pool. If the child has had diarrhea recently, they should avoid swimming.
A Growing Problem
When the CDC looked at outbreaks, they found 493 cases caused by pools between 200 and 2014. Those outbreaks made 27,000 people ill. Eight people ended up dying. Half of these cases were caused by Crypto. When someone swims in an affected pool, they may swallow water. This water infects them with the germ. About 16 percent of cases happened from Legionella bacteria. This bacteria is spread when someone inhales the water’s spray.
Swimming can make you sick from other germs, too. Pseudomonas accounted for 13 percent of outbreaks. This disease can cause swimmer’s ear and hot tub rash. Hotels made up 32 percent of the pool outbreaks.
The problem starts with the pool. In a CDC study, 20 percent of public spas and hot tubs did not use enough disinfectant. Without chlorine, bacteria makes biofilms. These biofilms resist chlorine and must be scrubbed off.
Hotel swimming pools are not any different from the pool at your house. The only problem is whether it is cared for. The pool’s operator has to check pH and chlorine levels. They have to be wary of diarrhea incidents. If an incident happens, the pool has to be cleared and cleaned.
Pools can prevent this problem by requiring showers. Showers can remove fecal matter, sweat and dirt. Parents can help by making sure that children do not have diarrhea or urinate while swimming. For extra safety, buy home chlorine test strips. These strips are quite cheap and can be used at public pools. You dip the strip in the water and look at the color changes. Ideally, the pool should have 1 part per million of chlorine. A hot tub should have 3 parts per million.
The test results can help you see how well the pool is cleaned and cared for. When in doubt, skip the pool entirely. A sudden illness can wreck a vacation, so it may be easier to just avoid public pools.