Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Swimming safety

With the 4th of July holiday just days away, many of us are planning to spend some time at the swimming pool. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to discuss some health issues we may face as we splish and splash around!

Meghan Kulig: Does chlorine kill germs in the pool?

Dr. Arnold: With proper levels, chlorine will kill potentially harmful organisms that live in pools, but it doesn't always kill them right away. Sometimes it takes minutes to days for the chlorine to kill them. An example is Cryptosporidium, which is a major cause of pool-related diarrheal illness, which can live for days in chlorinated water.

Meghan Kulig: What should people do to avoid these illnesses?

Dr. Arnold: Try not to swallow the water if possible. Wash your hands before eating a meal or snack at the pool. Also, showering before you get in the pool makes the water cleaner and safer for everyone. Check your children's swim diapers regularly and offer frequent bathroom breaks to young children who are toilet trained.

Meghan Kulig: How about hot tubs?

Dr. Arnold: Since they are maintained at a higher temperature, it can be more difficult to maintain proper disinfectant levels in hot tubs. The disinfectants can break down faster in the higher temperatures.

Meghan Kulig: What illnesses can people be exposed to in hot tubs?

Dr. Arnold: One that many people have probably heard about is commonly referred to as "hot tub rash". This is usually a bumpy red rash that can have pus filled blisters around hair follicles. It is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas. The rash often appears a few days after swimming in a contaminated hot tub, pool, or lake. It usually clears up within a few days. A lung disease, sometimes referred to as "hot tub lung" is less common and usually occurs in indoor hot tubs because of bacteria that are aerosolized and then inhaled.

Meghan Kulig: How about swimmer's ear?

Dr. Arnold: Swimmer's ear, also called otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear that can be very painful. It can occur when excess water stays in the ear canal and an infection develops. Affected ears can be red, itchy, painful, or have drainage. Tips for prevention include trying to keep the ears as dry as possible and avoiding inserting anything, even cotton swabs, into the ear.

Meghan Kulig: Let's touch on one last important topic: drowning.

Dr. Arnold: Children from age 1-4 have the highest drowning rates. Most of these deaths occur at home swimming pools. Older children are more likely to drown in a natural water setting, like a lake. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

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