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Pool water: bastion of nastiness says CDC

LOS ANGELES --- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain an alert protector of the public health, even if it means "grossing out" those whose favorite pastime during hot summer months is swimming. Toward

LOS ANGELES — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain an alert protector of the public health, even if it means “grossing out” those whose favorite pastime during hot summer months is swimming. Toward that end, the CDC has some unflattering news to lay on the swim set about the water that always appears blue and alluring.

Ever swallow a mouthful of pool water, accidentally? No big deal, right. Just a little choking and coughing. It’s just water! But, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it may be substantially more than water in the friendly recreational center pool.

Many pools across the U.S. contain blood and vomit contamination, which the CDC says is common. In fact, the agency reports that the most common germs spread through recreational water are the ones that cause diarrhea and skin rashes. These germs are spread by swallowing and regurgitating or by skin exposure to water that has been contaminated with germs, says the CDC, which adds, contact with blood vomit and/or blood in pool water is not likely to spread illness.

Vomiting occurs regularly says the CDC, often resulting from swallowing too much water, which means the vomit is probably infectious. But, regurgitating the contents of the stomach is a different story, which requires immediate action because germs most likely released here are noroviruses, also known as Norwalk-like viruses.

The CDC’s advice: Respond to the vomit incident as you would respond to a formed fecal incident.

Time and chlorine level combinations needed to kill noroviruses and Giardia, as well. Since killing Giardia is the basis for CDC’s formed fecal incident response recommendations, this protocol should be adequate for disinfecting a potentially infectious vomit incident.

Blood in pool water is another commonality. Germs found in blood (for example, Hepatitis B virus or HIV) are spread when infected blood or certain body fluids get into the body and bloodstream (for example, by sharing needles or by sexual contact). Chlorine kills germs found in blood and the CDC is not aware of any instances in which a person has become infected with these germs after being exposed to a blood spill in a pool.

Incidents of blood in pools from cuts or accidental injuries are usually alarming to other swimmers. But is blood in a pool serious enough to warrant the pool’s closure—even for a short period of time?

The CDC says there is no public health reason to recommend closing the pool after a blood spill. However, some pool staff choose to do so temporarily to satisfy guests.

As if blood and vomit weren’t enough to repulse swimmers, this next pool intruder accounts for why the majority of pool swimmers suffer burning eyes.

Most swimmers believe that red, stinging eyes are caused by chlorine. While this isn’t completely false, the real culprit here is urine.

“Irritants in the air at swimming pools are usually the combined chlorine by-products of disinfection. These by-products are the result of chlorine binding with sweat, urine, and other waste from swimmers,” according to a report from the CDC.

These irritants tend to be stronger in indoor pools, where they can contribute to poor air quality. The lack of air circulation can cause further irritation for swimmers, such as red eyes and stinging.

The CDC’s findings, first reported in May 2013, have renewed attention as summer has come into full swing.

“When we go swimming and we complain that our eyes are red, it’s because swimmers have [urinated] in the water,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program. “The nitrogen in the urine combines with the chlorine and it forms what’s known as chloramine and it’s actually chloramine that causes the red eyes. It’s not the chlorine itself. It’s chlorine mixed with [feces] and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us.”

To curtail the formation of germs and irritants in pool water, the CDC encourages swimmers to shower and use the restroom before crashing the pool.

RELATED: How Pools Can Make You Sick

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

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