Backyard Pools

Father playing with his little son in pool

Having a backyard pool can be a fun way for you and your family to be active at home or just relax. However, it is important to know what to do to reduce the risk of injury and illness. Keep your backyard pool safe and healthy to maximize all the health benefits that swimming can bring.

Take Steps to Prevent Drowning

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in young children 1–4 years old, but there are things you can do to prevent drowning from happening in your pool:

  • Make sure everyone has basic swim skills and water safety awareness.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets as directed.
  • Provide continuous and close supervision to swimmers.
  • Know how to recognize and respond to a swimmer in distress and how to perform CPR.
  • Prevent access to the water when the pool is not in use.
    • Install and maintain barriers such as four-sided fencing.
    • Use locks/alarms for windows and doors.
Pool cleaning supplies

Handle Pool Chemicals Safely

Pool chemicals, like chlorine, are needed to protect swimmers’ health. However, mishandling pool chemicals can cause serious injuries. Pool chemical injuries lead to about 4,500 U.S. emergency department visits each year, and over one-third of these preventable injuries are in children or teens.

If you store [PDF – 1 page] and use [PDF – 1 page] pool chemicals at your home, take the following steps to prevent pool chemical injuries:

  • Read and follow all directions on product labels.
  • Wear safety equipment—such as masks, gloves, and goggles—when handling chemicals.
  • Keep chemicals secure and away from children and pets.

Order pool chemical safety posters for free.

Kill Germs in Your Pool

Disinfection (with chlorine or bromine) and pH are the first defense against germs that cause recreational water illnesses. At the recommended levels, chlorine or bromine can kill most germs in the water within minutes.

As a backyard pool owner, you should check the disinfectant (chlorine or bromine) level and pH at least twice per day (and more often when the pool is in heavy use) to make sure they are correct:

  • 1–10 parts per million (ppm) free chlorine or 3–8 ppm bromine
  • pH 7.2–7.8

If the pH is too high or too low, it can cause problems, including decreasing chlorine’s or bromine’s ability to kill germs. It can also cause skin and eye irritation in swimmers and damage pool pipes and other equipment.

Family playing in a pool

Diarrhea and Swimming Don’t Mix

While enjoying your pool with your loved ones, it’s important to make sure not to swim or let others swim if sick with diarrhea. Just one diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of diarrhea-causing germs like Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. These germs can make other swimmers sick if they swallow just a mouthful of contaminated water. Although most germs are killed within minutes by chlorine or bromine at the recommended levels, Cryptosporidium is a germ that can survive in properly treated water for more than 7 days.

We can all help protect ourselves and those we care about from germs in the pool by following a few simple but effective steps.

Before getting in

  • Don’t swim or let others swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Shower for at least 1 minute before you get into the water to remove dirt or anything else on your body. Chlorine mixed with dirt, sweat, pee, and poop creates chemicals that make swimmers’ eyes red and sting. When chlorine mixes with dirt, sweat, pee, and poop, it also means there is less chlorine available to kill germs.

Once you are in

  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour.
    • Change diapers away from the poolside to keep germs from getting in the water.
  • Dry ears thoroughly with a towel after swimming.

Learn more about staying healthy while you swim and how to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer while you are in or around the pool.

Page last reviewed: April 2, 2022