Department of Health

Key messages

  • Following these simple steps can help you keep the pool safe and clean.
  • When you’re swimming, you’re sharing the water with everyone else.
  • Parents and supervisors should be extra careful with children to prevent faecal accidents and contamination.

Pool managers treat water quality to keep swimming pools safe and clean, but there are simple things we can all do to help.

Pathogens are microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) that cause illness. They can be introduced to the water by contaminants people carry on their bodies. Practicing good hygiene before swimming helps to prevent contamination.

Steps to healthy swimming

Follow these simple steps can help keep the pool safe and clean:

  • Don’t swim if you have diarrhoea.
  • Shower and wash with soap before swimming. Make sure your bottom is clean.
  • Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet or changing a nappy.
  • Only change nappies in nappy change areas.
  • Avoid swallowing pool water.

Keep pathogens out of pool water

We can all carry pathogens on our bodies, which can wash off and contaminate pool water. Chlorine can kill most pathogens, but it doesn’t kill them straight away. Some parasites, like Cryptosporidium, can survive in pools for days.

We are more likely to be infectious when we are not feeling well. For example, when you have an upset stomach or diarrhoea, there are thousands of pathogens in your faeces and traces on your bottom. These pathogens can wash off and contaminate the pool whenever you swim.

To keep pathogens out of the pool, it is important not to swim with diarrhoea.

When you have an infection, you should not swim while infectious. For example:

  • chickenpox – do not swim for a week after the rash appears
  • cryptosporidiosis (crypto) – do not swim for two weeks after diarrhoea stops; see the Better Health ChannelExternal Link for more information
  • athlete’s foot (tinea) – do not swim until a day after treatment is started
  • diarrhoea (unknown cause) – do not swim for two weeks after diarrhoea stops.

You can ask your general practitioner (GP) for advice about swimming if you or your children are diagnosed with any infection.

If you or your family develop a gastrointestinal illness after swimming at a public pool, contact the pool manager so any potential outbreak can be monitored.

Prevent faecal accidents

Young children may still be learning to control their bowel movements, so parents and supervisors should be extra careful to prevent faecal accidents.

To prevent faecal contamination:

  • keep an eye on your children at all times
  • take children on toilet breaks every hour and check nappies every 30–60 minutes
  • only change nappies in nappy change areas - do not change nappies by the poolside
  • give non-toilet trained children tight-fitting waterproof nappies
  • report any faecal accidents to swimming pool staff.

Order resources

Aquatic facilities can order copies of the healthy swimming brochure and posters using the online formExternal Link .

Reviewed 13 December 2023


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