Beware the Hotel Swimming Pool
You work hard, and it rightly feels well deserved to take a dip while on a business trip or when you have some vacation time. Often that means staying in a hotel for a few days of work or play and making use of the hotel facilities to relax. But it’s not quite so relaxing if you end up getting ill on your vacation, and a new report suggests that might be considerably more likely if you are using the hotel pool.
The study, which took place at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, found that one of the places dangerous germs appear to be most prevalent is hotel swimming pools.1 These results are based on data collected about outbreaks of illnesses associated with recreational water spots between 2000 and 2014 around the United States. Over this 14-year period, there were 493 occurrences, which contributed to 27,219 people getting sick and eight fatalities.
While all sorts of recreational water areas including pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds had instances of germ-related outbreaks, it was hotel pools that were single-handedly the worst offender. More than half of the outbreaks began between June and August, and 32 percent of them were traced back to hotel swimming pools.
The analysis also showed which bugs were responsible for the illnesses that arose. By far, the majority were brought on by a parasite known as cryptosporidium, or crypto for short, at least in the cases in which a germ was confirmed to be present and linked to health problems after time spent in a pool, hot tub, or water playground. Crypto caused 58 percent of the outbreaks and a whopping 89 percent of the illnesses that resulted.
Crypto is easily spread when someone carrying the germ enters the water. It is present in the fecal matter, so if a small child wearing swim diapers defecates while in the pool, trace amounts will escape and contaminate the water. Once the parasite is in the water, it only takes other swimmers a small swallow to become infected.
Even chemicals as strong as chlorine do not easily deter crypto due to an outer shell around the parasite that protects it quite thoroughly. The illness it causes, cryptosporidiosis, produces unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting and can last for up to two weeks. That’s why if you or any of your family members are experiencing symptoms such as these, it’s best to stay out of pools and hot tubs until several days after they have subsided to help keep others from catching it.
Unfortunately, although crypto might have been the most common germ found, it was not the only one. Legionella bacterium was responsible for 16 percent of the outbreaks during the time period evaluated. This can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially serious condition with symptoms that include fever, cough, muscle aches, and chills. And another 13 percent of the infections were caused by pseudomonas, a bacteria associated with eye and ear infections and skin rashes.
Short of staying away from all public pools from this point forward, how can you keep yourself safe? An obvious first step is to avoid swallowing any of the pool water. So, if you’re going in just to cool off, stay where you can easily stand without submerging your head to ensure you don’t accidentally swallow the water. Of course, that’s not so easy to do if you’re planning to swim, which requires your face entering the water.
You can request your hotel’s pool inspection score, which you should be able to find on the county’s health department website. But keep in mind that might have been conducted months earlier, and even the cleanest looking pools can harbor these germs. Instead, you might want to get your laps in at home, in a pool meant for swimmers rather than children and focus on other forms of exercise while on your vacation, just to be safe. And keep using immune builders and pathogen destroyers to maintain a healthy immune system and directly destroy pathogens in the event that you are exposed to these germs at some point.
- 1. Hlavsa, Michele C.; et al. "Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water—United States, 2000-2014." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 18 May 2018. Accessed 20 May 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6719a3.htm?s_cid=mm6719a3_w.