Healthy and Safe Swimming

Girl in swimming pool

Pools, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds are great places to have fun, be active, or just relax. Learn how to stay healthy and safe when in the water this summer!

Swimming is one of the most popular sports activities in the United States. Just 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, including water-based activity, has health benefits, no matter our age.

As with any form of physical activity, we increase the health benefits when we each do our part to decrease the risks of illness and injury.

Share the Fun, Not the Germs!

Graphic: Don't pee in the pool. Pee mixed with chlorine creates chemicals that can make your eyes red and itchy.

Heading to the pool this summer? Help ensure healthy and safe swimming experiences for everyone by following simple steps.

Swimming is a fun way to be healthy and spend time with family and friends. However, it’s important not to swim or let your kids swim if  they have diarrhea. Just one diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of diarrhea-causing germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. This can make other swimmers sick if they swallow a mouthful of contaminated water.

Most germs are killed within minutes by common pool disinfectants like chlorine or bromine, but Crypto is a germ that can survive in properly chlorinated water for more than 7 days. This is why Crypto is the leading cause of U.S. outbreaks linked to swimming.

Swim Healthy, Be Healthy!

We can all help protect ourselves and our loved ones from germs by following a few simple but effective steps.

Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool supply stores sell test strips.

For free test strips, visit the Water Quality & Health Council (WQHC)’s Healthy Pools pageexternal icon.

Before getting in…

  • Don’t swim or let children swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Check out the latest inspection results. You can find inspection scores online or on-site.
  • Do your own mini-inspection. Use test strips to make sure disinfectant (chlorine or bromine) level and pH are correct.
    • Free chlorine concentration of at least 1 ppm in pools and water playgrounds
    • Bromine concentration of at least 3 ppm in pools and water playgrounds
    • pH 7.2–7.8
  • Shower for at least 1 minute before you get into the water. This will remove most of the dirt and sweat on your body.

Once in…

  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Don’t pee in the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool.

Visit CDC’s Healthy Swimming website to learn more and order FREE printed healthy swimming materials.

Graphic: Pool chemical safety

Download CDC’s health promotion materials to help spread the word about the importance of staying healthy and safe in the water this summer and all year long!

Prevent Injury

Staying safe in and around the water is important, too. Don’t forget drowning prevention. Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 1–14 years old. In fact, drowning kills more young children 1–4 years old than anything else except birth defects.

Of drowning victims who survive and are treated in emergency rooms, more than half are hospitalized or transferred for further care. They often experience brain damage, which can cause memory problems, learning disabilities, or permanent loss of basic functioning. Swimmers can prevent drowning by learning swimming skills, by wearing life vests, and by swimming under the close supervision of parents, caregivers, or lifeguards who know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Visit CDC’s Sun Safety website to learn more about how to protect yourself and loved ones from skin cancer.

Remember: Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy! This summer and year round, let’s follow CDC’s Steps of Healthy Swimming to protect ourselves and our loved ones from illness and injury when swimming or playing in the water.