Department of Health

Safe summer swimming stops sickness

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

While swimming is fun and a great way to stay fit and active, sometimes germs can contaminate the pool water, which can make people sick.

Victoria's acting Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton said chlorine kills most germs in treated public pools but some germs, such as Cryptosporidium, are highly resistant to chlorine at normal concentrations.

Dr Sutton said these germs can live in pool water for days and make people sick. Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis (crypto) associated with pools occur when swimmers accidentally swallow pool water contaminated with the germ.

As part of VicSwim's 2018/19 Summer Learn to Swim program healthy swimming starter kits have been provided to every child taking part. The kits contain body wash and a water bottle, a sticker and colouring sheet plus healthy swimming tips for parents.

Crypto outbreaks are more common during summer, when more people are enjoying swimming pools to try and beat the heat.

In 2018 there were 780 cases of crypto notified to the Department of Health and Human Services, with 6 outbreaks linked to aquatic facilities and in 2017 there were 18 outbreaks of crypto associated with public swimming pools, compared to five in 2016.

"Everyone has a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe and healthy and help keep the pool clean and free of germs," Dr Sutton said.

Follow the five healthy swimming steps to help keep the pool clean:

  • Shower and wash with soap, especially your bottom, before swimming.
  • Wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet or changing a nappy.
  • Change nappies in nappy change areas only.
  • Avoid swallowing pool water.
  • Do not swim if you have diarrhoea.

"Even in the best maintained pools, germs on your body can wash off and contaminate the water," Dr Sutton said.

"You and your children are more likely to be infectious when not feeling well. Showering with soap before swimming will help keep germs out of the water.

"If you have vomiting or diarrhoea, stay out of the water. Even when you are recovering, stay out of the water until the symptoms have stopped.

"To prevent further spread of crypto, it is important for swimmers who have had crypto not to swim for two weeks after diarrhoea stops."

The Department's Healthy Swimming campaign aims to educate aquatic facility managers and patrons about what healthy swimming behaviour is and why it is important, and encourages everyone to be healthy swimmers.

Find out more about Healthy Swimming at the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 15 January 2019


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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