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The Ick Factor: Kids, Showers, and Public Pools

By Danielle Sullivan |

public pools, swimming kids, showering public pools, contaminated pools, children swimming

My pool at home is hard enough to keep clean.

According to a recent poll by University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, the majority of parents polled said it was not that important for their kids to shower before swimming in a public pool.

Out of 865 parents of children aged 5-12, only a small minority considered showering before swimming a health priority:

“While 64 percent of parents feel it is very important for children to not swallow the water at a water park, only 26 percent of parents think it is very important to shower before getting in the water,” says Matthew Davis, director of the poll and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University’s Medical School.

I got admit, I find public pools, well, gross. With all the bodies in and out of the pool all day long, I don’t care how many chemicals are in there, I really don’t want my kids swimming around the blend of body fluids, dirty diapers, and who knows what else. It might sound neurotic, but I find it disgusting.

While water parks are expected to keep the water properly disinfected, how many do at all times? Also, researchers say the disinfection can only go so far:

Although chlorine kills most of the germs that cause RWIs within an hour, cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that causes abdominal cramping, diarrhea and nausea, can survive for days even in properly disinfected water.

It’s estimated that recreational water illnesses (RWI) affect more than 10,000 Americans each year. They are spread by swallowing, breathing in or contacting contaminated water. Of course, these numbers might also reflect the beach, and ocean water which is filled with God knows what. Every year about mid-summer, you’ll see NY and NJ beaches closed for contamination.

Perhaps my disdain for public pools stems from the dirty, overcrowded pools I’ve seen in New York City, where sometimes there is standing room only it seems. I’m sure that there are places where the pool are properly maintained…but I can’t say they still wouldn’t gross me out a little.

Do you let your kids swim in public pools? Do you make them shower before diving in?

Image: MorgueFile

Land, sea, and air: Know where to look in Babble’s Germ Matrix!


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About Danielle Sullivan


Danielle Sullivan

Danielle Sullivan writes for Babble Pets. She is also an award-winning parenting writer, who authors a monthly column for NY Parenting and ASPCA Parents blog. You can read more of her work at her blog,Some Puppy To Love. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “The Ick Factor: Kids, Showers, and Public Pools

  1. Rosana says:

    Oh thanks. I was planning on taking my kids to the water park this summer, for the first time, but now I think we will stay in our boring pool. Gross!!!!!
    And yes, if we went to the water park, my kids will get a bath before that. We all take a shower or bath before we go out of the house. No matter where we go. What’s wrong with those 74% nasty people. Yuck!

  2. Danielle Sullivan says:

    Exactly- shouldn’t kids be showering before leaving the house regardless of where they’re going?

  3. Heather says:

    So are we now saying that unless you are wealthy enough to be able to have a pool in your yard (never mind those of us who are urban dwellers and live in a high rise building with no yard) your children should never swim? Ever? Because heaven knows lakes and rivers are full of gross stuff, the ocean is contaminated or far away, and chlorinated, lifeguard-supervised swimming pools are festering cesspools. So, no swimming. Right? I’m afraid I can’t go along with that – it might be gross or scary but I feel like not teaching my children how to swim and giving them opportunities to practice (outside of the bathtub) is just irresponsible. At some point in their lives they are going to approach a body of water (I hope) and I want them to be comfortable and experienced enough with swimming that they can be water-smart. So we’ll be at our possibly germ-infested public pool this week just as we are most weeks in the summer – enjoying the cool water, healthy exercise, and I guess, risk of typhoid.

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