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Green Summer: Practice Safe Swimming

6/23/2010 12:09:27 PM

Tags: green summer, swimming, swimming pools

Sunny Saturday afternoons were meant for lying by the pool and reading a good book. While my days of playing Marco Polo are long gone, I still like to get in the pool to cool off. The cold water does the trick to beat the heat, but I’m always left with a gross, chemical feeling when I get out.

That chemical feeling comes from the large amount of chlorine in the water, used to sanitize pools and keep the water looking sapphire-blue. Not only does it make your hair and skin feel dry and irritated, it has been linked to asthma and allergies. I thankfully didn’t develop any respiratory ailments from my years spent in the water, but I’ll definitely take more precautions from now on. 

 Swimming Pool 
Cool off on a hot summer day with a quick dip in the pool. But before you jump in, consider these health risks and take the necessary precautions. Photo By pixelpercy/Courtesy Flickr.

Here are some tips for how to enjoy a healthy day at the pool: 

• Take a shower before getting into the water. It may sound silly, but getting your hair wet before jumping in will keep it healthy. If the hair follicle is already wet, it won’t absorb as much of the chlorinated water, protecting it from drying out. 

• Rinsing off before getting in the pool also cleans the bacteria off your body, which means the chlorine doesn’t have to work as hard. More bacteria = more sanitation needed. Chlorine doesn’t kill all bacteria instantly, so washing off will help keep the pool cleaner for all swimmers.

• Try not to swallow any pool water, or accidentally breathe it in. Swallowing water from the pool is also the easiest way to ingest harmful disease-causing bacteria like E. coli that might be in the water. 

• Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. This is another great way to keep the pool from being contaminated. Any bathroom bacteria will get into the water and be spread to everyone swimming in it—gross! 

• Make sure the chlorine content of the pool stays at a safe level. The amount of chlorine is directly influenced by the pH level of your pool. The higher the pH, the more chlorine you will need to keep it clean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping the pH level of your pool between 7.2 and 7.8: anything higher or lower will increase the chance for skin and eye irritation.  

• Limit the amount of time you spend in the pool. Going every other day or less will help give your body time to refresh after a long chlorine bath. 

• Swim in a natural body of water instead. Lakes, ponds and beaches are great places to cool off on a warm day.

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