Shower and Swim, or Shigella – Your Choice


People often wonder why you're asked to shower before you get in the pool. Oddly enough, the reason why you should shower before entering the swimming pool is also the reason that chlorine, an odourless gas, gives of that distinct smell in a swimming pool.

Swimming Pool – contaminated

Keeping the Pool Clean

The idea behind getting in some water before you get in some more water, is to do with keeping the pool as clean as possible. You might say that this is pointless, because the chlorine in the pool makes it self cleaning, but that doesn't necessarily mean 'anything goes'. Chlorine can't stop everything, and with hundreds or even thousands of people entering that pool each day, the consequences don't really bear thinking about.

For example, we know that Cryptosporidium can sometimes be resistant to chlorine anyway.

You may have heard the rumours about a particularly disgusting craze known as 'logging'. While this is a way infection can spread, you don't need someone to 'participate' in the craze in order to get ill from a contaminated swimming pool.

Whatever is on your skin, hair, and under your nails, ends up in the pool along with what is on everybody else's skin, hair and nails. That includes:

  • Natural oils
  • Sweat
  • Makeup
  • Urine and fecal matter - even if only in trace amounts

The 'Swimming Pool Smell'

All of the above have one thing in common, they contain the chemical element nitrogen. When nitrogen mixes with chlorine, they form chemicals called 'chloramines'. These chloramines are essentially used up chlorine, because it then loses its antibacterial properties. They are also behind what makes a swimming pool smell. So the disgusting truth is that the more a swimming pool smells like a swimming pool, the dirtier it could be, providing it has chlorine in it in the first place!

We mentioned earlier that Cryptosporidium can still be caught from a chlorinated swimming pool. Another possibility is Shigella. Symptoms of a Shigella infection include:

  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever

Shigella is spread by eating contaminated food, or drinking contaminated water. It can also be spread by contact with microscopic amounts contaminated fecal matter. Because of this, it is easy to see how the illness is spread among holidaymakers; namely kitchens that fail to follow hygiene standards, and dirty swimming pools.

Something to think about when you smell that all too familiar 'swimming pool smell' next time.

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