A pool that looks sparkly clean could make you sick for weeks

Consumer Reports reveals when to get everyone out of the water

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It may be cool and relaxing on a hot summer day, but even a pool that looks clean could lead to a sickness that lasts for weeks.

Common culprit of swimming-related illness

Consumer Reports said the most common culprit when it comes to this swimming-related illness -- particularly in public pools or water parks -- is cryptosporidium, or crypto for short. It’s spread through fecal matter, and even a small amount can contain millions of germs.

Regular levels of chlorine won’t kill crypto, which can survive in a well-maintained pool for up to 10 days. According to Consumer Reports, other bugs such as norovirus and giardia can also survive in chlorinated pools, but not for nearly as long as crypto.

Not only can crypto survive for a while, it's also easy to catch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that swallowing even one mouthful of water infected with crypto can lead to weeks of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Consumer Reports says you should emphasize to kids that they should not be swallowing the water.

Protect your family

Besides not swallowing the water, you can protect your family by making sure anyone who swims in your pool follows some simple guidelines:

  • Anyone who is experiencing diarrhea or has been sick in other ways should not swim.
  • You should have people take a shower or at least rinse off before they swim.
  • Have kids take frequent bathroom breaks to reduce the risk of accidents. That goes for babies as well; those swim diapers aren't foolproof.

If you get sick after swimming, your doctor can run tests to see whether crypto is the cause. If it is, the CDC says you should wait a full two weeks after the diarrhea has stopped before you get back in a pool.  

When to get everyone out of the water

If fecal matter does get into the pool, don’t take any chances. Consumer Reports says everybody needs to get out of the water and the pool must be shut down. The only way to effectively kill crypto is to have a professional super-chlorinate the water and then slowly bring it back to normal levels again, a process that can take at least 8 hours.

Prevent "swimmer's ear"

If you are a parent or caregiver with a child that loves the water, you've likely had to deal with what's known as swimmer's ear, which is different than a typical middle-ear infection.

Swimmer's ear is an outer-ear infection that can occur when contaminated water gets trapped in the ear canal, causing symptoms that can include itchiness inside the ear, redness or swelling, pain if you pull or push on the ear, or even pus that drains from the ear.

If you or your child gets it, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ear drops to treat it.

To prevent swimmer's ear, Consumer Reports recommends you and your family do the following:

  • Protect your ears and keep them dry by using a swim cap or silicone ear plugs -- not wax.
  • Dry your ears with a towel after swimming.
  • If you have water in your ear, tilt your head downward and pull your in different directions to get the water out.
  • Over-the-counter ear drops meant to dry out your ears can help, if you are unable to get the water out yourself.

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