As always, a fun little fact about myself: I won first place in the Junior PGA Tour in California when I was 11 years old. I won free golf clubs and an 18-hole round of golf with Davis Love.
And now for the headline story!
Everyone poops, we don’t talk about it, but it happens. However, not everyone poops in the pool…...but that happens too, so let’s talk about it! In my professional opinion…..a kid’s thought process is “hey, this looks like a giant toilet, - so why can’t I poop in it?”
Fecal incidents are more common than you would think and it’s one of the many, many reasons why there are adult swims in place at pools. Realistically everyone should be getting out of the water at least every hour to use the restroom, rehydrate, re-apply sunscreen, make sure THE KIDDOS go to the bathroom, or to change swim diapers/pants. So, sorry to say it kids, adult swim is not to punish you—they’re to make sure to minimize bacteria in the pool and prevent the spread of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs).
“Why do you need to close the pool for poop if there’s chlorine in the water?”
Well as you may know poop carries a lot of gross stuff in it and because of that, it takes chlorine several minutes if not hours to kill some of what is inside. There are two kinds of fecal incidents that can happen: Number 1 & Number 2 (ha...ha…...just kidding). The first is solid fecal matter and the second, liquid fecal matter (yup, diarrhea). If anyone were to poop in the pool, you’re definitely rooting for the first one. When solid fecal matter is found in the pool it needs to be immediately addressed and taken out of the pool. Luckily, most of the yucky diseases are inside the ‘poop puck’ and not usually on the surface. Chocolate anyone? The pool will need to be evacuated of all patrons. Once all or most of the matter is taken out then the CDC recommends the free chlorine level to be maintained at 2ppm (parts per million) and a pH range of 7.2 - 7.5 for 30 minutes. If the free chlorine is lower, or if the pH is outside of this range, then pool closure time will need to be prolonged. Average pool closures can be around 1-2 hours or longer based on clean-up time and chlorine/pH level. Lifeguards can add Professional Pooper Scooper to the resume! You should treat the pool the same for any animal feces that may be dropped in. Vomit in the pool procedures are the exact same as solid fecal matter. A good rule of thumb is that if there are no “chunks” or other particles in the vomit, then it’s most likely regurgitated water and it’s safe to keep the pool open. But once you see those delicious goldfish floating around…...it’s time to close the pool.
Blood - it is uncommon to have to close the pool for blood. In a well balanced pool the chlorine will kill any germs found in the blood fairly quickly. However, if your chemical levels are not within the appropriate range, you might want to close the pool and get that straightened out. If there is a significant amount of blood, from a nosebleed for example, in the pool then some facilities may still close 30 minutes to an hour to appease patrons (because who wants to swim in a giant cloud of blood? Not me!). But according to the CDC, there is no public health risk if the pool were to stay open during this time. It’s just very icky.
Now for the good stuff—diarrhea. Liquid fecal incidents are a whole different ballgame. It is usually easy to identify when there is diarrhea in the pool because it is accompanied by a wonderful cloud of dark and dangerous goodies. Have we discussed the types of diseases fecal matter carries? No? Boy oh boy are you in for a sweet treat. Just some types of bacteria: E.coli, shigella, cholera, salmonella, campylobacter. Viral infections: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, rotavirus. Parasites: giardia, cryptosporidium and even in some cases, WORMS. Do I still have you? Have I scared anyone away yet? These can be carried in both solid and liquid fecal matter but they are easily contained inside the solid matter. Usually if someone has diarrhea it is because something not very nice is inside their gastrointestinal system. When there is a liquid fecal incident the chlorine will need to be raised to 10ppm chlorine level or hyperchlorinated for about 26 hours. What’s even scarier is that, according to the CDC, the parasite Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of waterborne disease among human in the U.S. AND it is chlorine-tolerant. So basically in a properly and safe balanced pool, the parasite can live in a swimming pool for ……..days. (dun, dun dunnnnn). If you become very ill, diagnosed with cryptosporidium and were in a swimming pool in the past 2 weeks, then please alert your local health district so that it may be contained and treated.
Well I think I’ve grossed out and scared you all enough so I will end your torture. Please remember to always shower before entering the pool to help rinse off any fecal matter that may still be on you or your kids and to report ANY suspicious looking candy bars or pebbles floating around the pool to a lifeguard or other Aquatics Professionals so that they can address it. Better to be safe than, have extreme diarrhea!
Thank you for reading and hopefully learning. Continue to follow me every Tuesday for more helpful tips, info and stories on how to make for a safe and fun life around water.