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Is It Safe To Swim In Public Pools

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Is It Safe To Use An Indoor Pool

Is it safe to visit public pools and summer camps this summer?

MIT Medical answers your COVID-19 questions. Got a question about COVID-19? Send it to us at , and well do our best to provide an answer.

I am looking for some guidance about swimming in an indoor pool in the fall. Are there any recommendations at this point?

Come on in, the waters fine!

Were serious. The pool itself is a low-risk space, assuming youre able to maintain proper distancing from other swimmers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , theres no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread through water in pools. While we dont yet have data showing how this particular coronavirus responds to chlorine, we do know that chlorine effectively inactivates similar viruses, including SARS-CoV. With proper pool operation and maintenance, including disinfection with chlorine and bromine, most experts believe that transmission of the virus through water is virtually impossible.

But going to a public pool involves more than swimming, and thats where the risk can be found.

Assessing that out-of-water risk involves looking at several variables. The Japanese governments very effective COVID-19 messaging advises people to avoid the three Cs closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places with many people nearby, and close-contact settings, such as close-range conversation.

Then theres the locker room. Small, windowless, probably not well ventilated exactly the kind of place one should avoid during a pandemic.

Is It Safe To Go To The Pool

As states begin to reopen pools, many are wondering if itâs safe to head back into the water. The CDC says a properly maintained pool using chlorine or bromine is safe.

âThereâs really no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through water in pools or hot tubs or water play areas,â says Grant Baldwin, PhD, co-leader of the CDCâs Community Interventions and At-Risk Task Force, COVID-19 Response. âProper operation and disinfection of the pool environment should kill the virus.â

A broad review of data on coronaviruses in water environments released online ahead of print in the July 2020 issue of Water Research upholds the notion that COVID-19 doesnât spread thorough water.

But before you grab your suit and do a cannonball, remember a virus-free pool doesnât mean a risk-free swim season. You could still catch COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface or with person-to-person contact.

âIf youâre in the pool in close proximity to somebody and they cough, sneeze, or scream in front of you, and thereâs a swapping of respiratory droplets, that would put you at risk,â says Baldwin. âBut thatâs not because youâre in a chlorinated pool, itâs because youâve broken the social distancing issue.â

Are Water Sports Like Paddle

If state and local health authorities allow it and youre able to maintain social distance and practice all good COVID-19 prevention measures, I would think paddle boarding would be a low-risk situation, Pastula said.

He likened paddle boarding to going on a walk in a remote area by yourself.

If you have your own board and a place to go where you do not need to be around crowds, then you should be fine.

If you need to rent a paddle board or sailboat, you would need to keep your distance from workers, wear a mask and be sure to sanitize your hands or any shared equipment that your hands touch, like paddles, oars or a boat.

The same guidance applies with recreation as it does in other scenarios, like grocery shopping. Think about objects your hands are touching.

You need to clean frequently-touched surfaces. You want to wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

Any frequently-touched objects that are shared could be a source of infection, Pastula said.

You have to break the cycle of transmission. The object would need to have the virus on it. You would need to touch that object with your hand, then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

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Teach Children How To Swim

It might sound overly simplified, but its true: children who have had swimming lessons are far less likely to die from drowning than children who havent. There are so many different options for swimming lessons for children.

Some experts say that even babies can learn to swim, at least enough to turn themselves over and save themselves if they happen to fall into the water. However, some children can benefit from safety equipment like life jackets and water wings, even once they are older.

If you are a parent, check out your local YMCA or afterschool program to see if there are any options available. If you are a grandparent, can you even think of a better birthday or Christmas gift to give than the gift of swimming safety? Definitely something to think about!

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If you answered yes to these questions, ask yourself one more: Do I spend time with elderly people or anyone with a compromised immune system? Remember that staying healthy helps keep those around you healthy as well.

If you do go out on the water, use your best judgment and make sure you have enough equipment to make it easy for people to keep clean and distant. Some general tips: Don’t load your boat to the max with friends sitting shoulder to shoulder. Discourage reusable cups and the sharing of drinks . Keep disinfectant wipes, soap and hand sanitizer handy. As an extra precaution, you could disinfect the surfaces when the passengers disembark.

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What Makes The Delta Variant Different

The COVID-19 delta variant is more contagious and transmissible. The thing with the delta variant is it seems that you need less close, sustained contact to get infected than before, says Dr. Khabbaza. Before, we thought it was 10 or 15 minutes of close, sustained contact but its quite a bit shorter with delta, just because theres so much more virus an infected person produces, and it seems the virus attaches much stronger to our upper airways.

Thats one major reason vaccination is so important, Dr. Khabbaza adds. If youre vaccinated, all these concerns are going to be exponentially less than in an unvaccinated person. Being unvaccinated is the riskiest move right now, he says. Even long before we had delta, to go around with no immunity to COVID is pretty high risk in the middle of a pandemic.

Additionally, while the health benefits of working out are undeniable, where you exercise could make a difference. Across the board, outdoor activities are going to be safer than indoor activities, especially now that there are more contagious variants, Dr. Khabbaza says. With the delta variant, youre making a lot more viral copies in your nose and mouth. It takes a lot less exposure and close contact to somebody else to transmit it.

Should You Be Worried About Germs In Your Swimming Pool

COVID-19 update: According to the CDC, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through pool water. However, individuals who are not vaccinated should practice social distancing at public pools and owners of residential pools should continue to ensure pools are properly operated and maintained.

Summer is finally here, and you probably feel like you’ve been ready for pool season for months. But, before you and your family dive in, are you sure your swimming pool is ready for pool season, too?

Germs can be found almost anywhere, including in swimming pools and hot tubs. This means that proper cleaning and maintenance of your pool and hot tub are essential to preventing getting sick while swimming.

Read Also: How To Unclog Swimming Pool Pipes

Can I Get Sick From Swimming In A Pool

Yes, there are many illnesses that can be transmitted in pool water. However, the risk of contracting disease in a properly maintained pool is low. People can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites within their bodies and on their skin. Some of these organisms can be released into the pool water to infect other swimmers. Organisms may enter the body through the mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. Breaks in the skin can also be a route of transmission. Bathers should shower before entering a pool to remove contaminants from the skin. Bathers who have had diarrhea within 14 days or currently have open wounds are prohibited from swimming.

Can I Catch It Queuing Up

Coronavirus Hotline: How safe is swimming in a public pool?


The key risk here is in how close you are to a potentially infected person, so dont stand near others if you are queuing for entry to the pool or lining up at the canteen for some post-swim hot chips.

The closer you are, the higher the risk, especially considering the Delta variant is much more transmissable than some previous variants.

Again, physical distancing and mask wearing can help protect you.

Also Check: How To Raise Free Chlorine In Salt Water Pool

Prevent Illness By Maintaining Proper Chlorine And Ph Levels

Proper pool maintenance is more than just skimming leaves and brushing away algae. It’s regularly checking the chlorine level and pH of your pool especially during the times your pool is most frequently used.

When chlorine is mixed with water, it creates a “weak” acid that’s ideal for killing many types of germs. It’s why we use chlorine as a disinfectant in our pools and hot tubs. The CDC recommends a free chlorine level of 1 ppm for your pool and 3 ppm for your hot tub.

But, the pH of your pool matters, too. Chlorine only works well if the pH of your pool falls within the right range. If the pH of your pool is too high , chlorine is much less effective at killing germs. On the flip side, if the pH is too low , it can cause pipe corrosion. The CDC recommends keeping the pH of your pool between 7.2 and 7.8.

Other factors affect chlorine, too. Any dirt, sweat, pee or poop in the water is broken down by chlorine using up chlorine and reducing the chlorine level of the pool or hot tub. In addition, high temperatures , sunlight and any water feature or jets that aerosolize water or create mist also use up chlorine.

This means that it’s important to regularly check both the chlorine level and pH of your pool. When both chlorine and pH are maintained at the right level and range, the result is a perfect balance between germ-killing and pool-system longevity. In addition, this range reduces skin and eye irritation that can occur at both a very high or a very low pH.

What Safety Measures Should A Pool Have In Place

The CDC has published guidelines for anyone who operates or manages a public pool. These guidelines include providing supplies to support healthy hygiene and disinfecting shared objects each time they are used. The guidelines also advise creating physical and visual cues to ensure that everybody stays at least six feet apart, both in and out of the water. So if your local pool is open, think less pool party, more laps.

RELATED: Is It Safe to Go to the Beach Right Now? Here’s What Experts Say

Many states have started to re-open public pools, but with strict rules in place. In The Villages, Florida, where pools opened on May 4, swimmers are asked to come dressed to swim” and bring their own masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer. Swimmers must stay six feet away from one another and can stay in the pool for no longer than one hour. There are also capacity limits in place, which vary depending on whether the pool is a sports pool, a family pool, or a neighborhood pool.

Ultimately, public health officials can’t provide definitive guidelines for all activities for all people in all areas of the country, and going to the pool is one of those activities that requires you to do some risk-assessment of your own. While the water is generally quite safe, the people and surfaces around a pool could all harbor the coronavirus,David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Health.

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Are Beaches And Pools Safe How To Swim During The Pandemic

Going for a dip this summer?

Make sure youre at least two metres away from others, experts say.

While the coronavirus pandemic shouldnt stop you from enjoying the outdoors this summer, you still need to take precautions to avoid catching the virus or giving it to others.

Even though were outside, at the beach or lake or wherever it is and enjoying the water you still need to be aware of social distancing, said Kay Bidle, a professor of microbial oceanography at Rutgers University.

The problem isnt really the water, its other people around you, Bidle said. He doesnt think the virus would survive very well in water, or it would quickly dilute into the water body, and so it would be unlikely you would get infected that way.

The danger is far less that than it is interaction, touching and being in close proximity, he said.

On beaches, those droplets might spread even further.

At the beaches, theres usually enhanced wind, Bidle said. And so what that does is it increases the distance by which these things can be transported.

The particles would quickly dilute in the air, he said, but the wind could push them farther than usual something he says happens with marine viruses.

READ MORE: Can I go for a walk outside during the coronavirus outbreak?

With proper distance, its probably safe to swim at a beach, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Toronto.

Does Chlorine Kill Covid

Free Outdoor Public Pools in NYC

Thats a natural question to ask. But right now, theres no scientifically-based answer to this question. Pools need to use chlorine for sanitation reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Since no data exists to support or refute this idea, pool safety has been focused on what safety measures pools can take.

As the pandemic emerged in 2020, Weaver says the Stow LifeStyles facility focused on keeping pools, locker rooms and common areas safe for patrons. They installed multiple sanitizing stations along the pathway from the entrance to the pool itself and also minimized touch points. Staff typed in membership codes for visitors and propped open doors so members didnt have to touch handles. The facility also encouraged members to bring their own swimming gear, and temporarily didnt offer equipment that would be difficult to sanitize, such as flippers or styrofoam pool buoys.

Weaver says the facility also installed measures to encourage distancing. They blocked off lockers in locker rooms so people werent next to each other, and each swimmer had a chair at the end of their lap lane, which they could use for changing or resting. Swimmers were also encouraged not to congregate and chat at the end of lap lanes. Meanwhile, lifeguards had their own individual sets of rescue gear.

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How To Safely Swim In Pools During Covid:

You’ll need to keep up your commitment to hand hygiene while you’re out at a public pool this summer, whether that’s one run by the local city or at places like a resort or the gym. Bring along hand sanitizer so you can keep your hands as clean as possible between surfaces like ladders, diving boards, lounge chairs or anything you may touch throughout your day.

You’ll also need to wear masks when visiting indoor pools and keep social distance from large groups of swimmers to keep COVID-19 risk low. While it’s important to wear masks in these spaces, you shouldn’t wear masks while you are swimming, as it’s a major choking hazard to swim with a wet mask. There may be additional rules on capacity or social distancing set forth by your municipality or the facilities’ managers, too.

Of course, the easiest way to enjoy frequent trips to the pool and reduce the majority of COVID-19 risk is to get fully vaccinated before doing so. Being vaccinated may also exempt you from having to wear a mask in pool facilities as well after a recent CDC update to mask mandates in public. If anything, a long, leisurely cool off in your local pool could be a great summer reward after you’ve successfully cleared your last booster shot. Just add it to the list of rewards associated with vaccines!

Can I Go On A Boat On The Lake With Friends Since We’re Outside

The understanding among experts is the coronavirus can spread more easily in enclosed, indoor areas where people are more likely to share the same air. And new studies suggest the coronavirus is airborne and can spread through the air.

Before agreeing to any boat plans with friends, first ask yourself these questions: Do they live with me? Are stay-at-home orders lifted in my state? Are gatherings permitted where I live?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s safest to take a rain check on the invitation or keep the boat ride limited to the people in your household, if you’re the one doing the inviting.

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When Your Pool Is Too Dirty

Epidemiologists love nothing more than tracking pool-based outbreaks. In 1954, for instance, researchers identified a new bacterial species, Mycobacterium balnei, just from rifling through swimming pool data. Swedish patients were suffering from skin lesions on their elbows, and all had curiously suffered minor scrapes in the same swimming pools. Since lab ethics werent really a thing in the 50s, the researchers proved they had found the right bacteria by isolating a sample from of the infected pools and heroically injecting it into their elbows. But Sweden wasnt alone. That same year, Washington, D.C., faced an epidemic of pharyngeal-conjunctival fever, again associated with unsanitary swimming pools. This time it was a virus, and the far more conservative scientists at the National Institutes of Health isolated it in sterile Petri dishes.

Lest we think of swimming pool epidemics as a thing of the past, bacterial skin disease is now so common among people who spend their days in swimming pools that one study suggested it should be recognized as an occupational disease for hydrotherapists, while another from Germany found that babies who stay away from pools have lower rates of diarrhea, ear infection, and airway infection.

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