Is It Safe to Skip the Shower After a Dip in the Pool?

Chlorine, a common disinfectant used for our drinking water, is also commonly used to cleanse swimming pools. A healthy pool, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), should have a free chlorine concentration of at least 1 part per million (ppm) and a free bromine concentration at a minimum of 3ppm while the pH should range from 7.2 to 7.8. In recent months, there has been a misconception that chlorine functions as soap, so does a dip in the pool constitute a shower? In a survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council on 3,100 American adults, it was discovered that 51 percent of Americans treat swimming pools as a communal bathtub; in other words, people are using pools as a substitute for showering or as a place to rinse off after strenuous activities. However, officials of the Vermont Health Department state that jumping in the pool should not be substituted for a shower.  In fact, they advised swimmers to shower upon entering and exiting the pool. If chlorine disinfects pathogens in our drinking water, why can’t it kill the germs on our body? Two-thirds of Americans acknowledge that pool chemicals do not eliminate the need to shower prior to swimming, yet 48 percent stated that they never rinsed off before heading to the pool.  This is bad news for those who take showers in the pool as when the chlorine interacts with sweat, lotion, sunscreen, and even urine, it forms disinfection byproducts (DBPs) like chloramines, cyanogen chloride, and nitrosamines. These organic compounds reduce the chlorine-based disinfectants in the water, leaving less disinfectants available in the pool for killing germs. This could cause swimmers to suffer from irritated eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. If you’re noticing your hair drying out or your skin feeling leathery, you should probably stop showering in chlorine water. Taking a quick shower in the pool, resembles washing off your filth in others’ dirt. As many as 40 percent of Americans confessed to having peed in the pool as an adult. In a study conducted in 2017, scientists discovered that the average public swimming pool contains approximately 20 gallons of urine. Utilizing a stable synthetic sweetener as a urinary marker, the scientists measured the levels of artificial sweetener in the pool. Not only is there urine in the pool, but fecal matter can be found too. Although diarrhea is the most common recreational water illness, 24 percent of Americans admit to going into a pool within an hour of experiencing diarrhea. Even a disinfection of the pool may not immediately kill these germs as they can live up to days in the water. Once the pool has been infected, a person can fall ill by taking a small gulp of pool water. Even after recovering from diarrhea, the germs can live in a person for up to two weeks, so it’s best to avoid the pool during this period. Swimming in a chlorinated pool may give the impression that you are clean as the chlorine has killed the germs, but a swim only removes very loosely attached bacteria, while most of these germs and dead skin cells can only be scrubbed off with soap. In conclusion, a pool may be a good place to cool down on a hot day, but it should not and does not constitute a shower. You may leave the pool with more germs than you entered with. To stay clean and healthy, take a rinse before entering the pool and a nice, long shower once you exit.   Sources used in article: Ashley Welch, “Half of Americans Admit Using Swimming Pool in Lieu of Shower,” CBS News, 2019, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Healthy Swimming,” 2011, Chris Wiant, “A New Survey Reveals Americans’ Understanding and Misunderstanding of Pool Chemicals,” Water Quality and Health Council, 2019, Connor Cyrus, “Does Jumping in a Pool Count as a Shower?” WCAX, 2019, Joanie Faletto, “The Scientific Reason You Shouldn’t Pee in the Pool (And You Should Shower Before Swimming,” Curiosity, 2017, Lindsay K. Jmaiff Blackstock, Wei Wang, Sai Vemula, Benjamin T. Jaeger, and Xing-Fang Li, “Sweetened Swwimming Pools and Hot Tubs,” ACS Publications, 2017,