Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming
Awareness, Action, Advocacy
Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) can be caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.
You have the power to help keep germs out the water in places we swim. Remember, chlorine and other disinfectants don’t kill germs instantly. Additionally, the mixing of chlorine with pee and sweat uses up the chlorine in the pool, which would otherwise kill germs.
We all share the water we swim in, and we each play an essential role in helping to protect ourselves, our families, and our friends from RWIs. The Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming were created to provide swimmers with the tools they need to be activist swimmers and take the lead in preventing RWIs in the places they swim. Follow the steps below to ensure that your swimming experience is healthy, and RWI-free!
- Keep the poop, germs, and pee out of the water.
- Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
- Shower with soap before you start swimming.
- Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water.
- Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
- Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Don't swallow the water you swim in.
Parents of young children should take a few extra steps:
- Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30–60 minutes.
- Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside where germs can rinse into the water.
- Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
- Pools: Proper free chlorine level (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
- Hot tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2–4 parts per million or ppm] or bromine [4–6 ppm] and pH [7.2–7.8]) maximize germ-killing power.
- Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.
Free pool test strips: Go to the Water Quality & Health Council (WQHC)’s Healthy Pools page to order and receive free test strips. Please note that any questions regarding your order or the availability of test strips should be addressed to the WQHC, not CDC.
- Ask the pool operator the following questions:
- Are the free chlorine level and pH checked at least 2 times per day and more often when the pool is heavily used?
- What is the latest pool inspection score?
- Has he/she completed specialized training in pool operation?
- Encourage pool operators to take steps known to kill germs.
- Add ultraviolet or ozone disinfection technology to pool water treatment.
- Hyperchlorinate regularly; some of the toughest germs require free chlorine levels at 20 ppm for 12.75 hours to kill them.
- Educate other swimmers about RWIs to promote healthy swimming.
To learn more about the importance of following the Triple A's of Healthy Swimming, read the CDC report on common pool inspection violations.
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