Poop in Public Pools Shouldn't Stop You From Letting Your Kids Swim

swimming poolYeah, so there's really no polite way to put this, so I'll just come right out and say it. There's poop in public pools. Did you hear me? Every time you take the kids to a public pool -- odds are good they're swimming around with feces in the water.

Excuse me for a second -- I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Last summer, researchers from the CDC found E. coli bacteria in 58 percent of the pools they tested. Yep, you guessed it, E. coli comes from the human gut -- and poop.

And the poop that's found in pools doesn't necessarily come from someone pooping in the pool.


You know those signs that say something along the lines of "all persons must shower before entering pool"? Well, there's a reason for them -- even though 99 percent of us ignore them altogether. (Seriously, who showers or makes their kids shower before taking a dip?)

According to the CDC report, on average, people have about 0.14 grams of fecal material on their "perineal surface," which can get into the water if it's not washed off in the shower beforehand.

(OMG. Who else is scarred for life after hearing this news?)

And don't even try and fool yourself into thinking you and your kids are safe if the pool is heavily chlorinated. Turns out that doesn't really make a difference. Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC's Healthy Swimming Program, says, "Chlorine and other disinfectants don't kill germs instantly. It's important that swimmers shower before getting in a pool, not swallow the water they swim in, and avoid swimming when they have diarrhea."

Ok. Got it. We should all shower before hopping in the pool, stay out of the pool if we have the runs, and make sure our kids don't swallow the water or let any of it get into their mouth. (Yeah. Try telling that to a kid who likes to pretend he's a human fountain every time he goes for a swim.)

But what else can moms do to keep our kids safe? As disgusting as this report is, let's be realistic -- it's not like we can vow never to take our children to a public pool ever again.

In addition to the shower recommendation, the CDC also urges parents to take their kids to the bathroom every hour to avoid any accidents in the pool. Also, babies' diapers should not be changed near the pool, and they should be checked every 30 to 60 minutes. (And don't even get me started on swim diapers, which we all know aren't all that effective. Gross, gross, and triple gross.)

But no matter what kind of precautions we take to make sure our own kids aren't spreading fecal matter into the pool, there really isn't much we can do about other people's kids passing on the germ love. And that's why it's probably a good idea for moms to shower or bathe their kids as soon as they are done swimming, in addition to washing bathing suits in between uses.

Oh, and another thing -- how many of us let our kids eat lunch and/or snacks poolside? Um, now we know more than ever that the pool doesn't count as a bath. And that's why we need to make sure to have them wash their hands or, at the very least, keep hand sanitizer nearby before pulling the sandwiches and chips out of the cooler.

Other than that, what else can we do besides go about our lazy summer days as we normally would -- and keep our fingers crossed that they're poop-free?

Does this report make you nervous about taking your kids to public pools?


Image via Brisbane City Council/Flickr

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