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Germs in your gym’s pool, sauna or hot tub could cause diarrhoea and chest infections


What nasties are lurking in the pool? (Picture: Ella Byworth)

Nothing beats a morning dip in the pool at your gym. And everyone knows jumping in the sauna or hot tub after a tough workout is the pinnacle of self-care.

But, new research suggests that there could be a whole host of germs lurking in these warm, wet areas at your gym – and they could be causing loads of nasty illnesses.

The research, conducted by online pool and hot tub supplies shop Blue Cube Direct, found that if not properly maintained, these public environments can be a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause both mild and severe illnesses and infections.

In fact, there are so many possible illnesses – they have their own category; recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

The most common RWI is diarrhoea, which can be caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli.

Cryptosporidium parasites can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools, causing mainly a diarrheal Illness.

As well as diarrhoea, RWIs can include a wide variety of illnesses and infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections.



Tips to avoid recreational water illnesses

  • The main issue with RWIs is accidental (or intentional) ingestion, so don’t swallow pool water
  • Shower before and after swimming
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using a toilet or changing nappies
  • Remove small children from pools for regular toilet breaks
  • Check nappies often, and in a designated toilet area (not beside the pool)
  • Don’t swim when you are suffering from, or are recovering from diarrhoea – diarrhoea can be transmitted in pool water even weeks after symptoms cease
  • Most ear infections swimmers suffer are associated with repeated and prolonged wetting of the ear canal and not with specific pathogens in the water, so keep your head above water as much as possible
  • In a sauna, bring a clean towel to sit on to reduce contact with potentially contaminated surfaces

Acanthamoeba is another bacteria that could be lurking in the water. It can cause dry skin called acanthamoebic keratitis, which may lead to corneal ulcers or even blindness.

Worryingly, people with fungal or yeast infections that interact with the water could cause other swimmers to develop skin infections, from nail and skin issues to mouth and genital infections.

Occasionally, they can also cause chest infections, but the risk of this is low in people with normally functioning immune systems.

‘Even in the most well-maintained highly chlorinated environments, some bacterium and parasites can stay alive,’ explains Andrew Jones, Director at Blue Cube Direct. ‘So there will also be a level of risk of contracting an illness through recreational water use.

‘Even if no bacteria are present, users can cause themselves and others health issues through poor hygiene.

‘The aroma that people associate with a clean pool, is in fact the smell of nitrogen trichloride, which is a pungent gas that forms when chlorine from the disinfectant reacts with human matter.

‘This human matter might include sweat, urine, mucus, saliva, hair, dead skin and faecal matter – and even other pollutants such as perfume, cosmetics and sun cream (e.g. in summer or when on holiday).

‘If you are unfortunate enough to notice any of the above symptoms after a visit to your local pool, it may be a case that they are not using adequate water treatment or dosing methods.

‘Informing the establishment will allow them to investigate the problem and fix any issues, which will help reduce any future negative experiences for users.’

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