There are some seriously gross swimming pool diseases out there. If you are prone to squeamishness, stop reading now. If you don’t, you may just find yourself making a large bonfire and torching your swimming pool membership card and your swimming costume just to make sure you never go again. You can protect yourself, to a degree, by not swallowing pool water and ensuring you are very hygienic (have a really good shower after those baths), so don’t worry too much. Here are some of the things you can pick up in your public pool.
HPV – Human Papilloma Virus
HPV is a virus that is generally transmitted through sexual acts. However, it can also be picked up in swimming pools and is, by and large, the worst swimming pool disease out there. This is because, in women at least, it is known to be one of the causes of cervical cancer.
In terms of symptoms, expect genital warts, but also in the feet (plantar warts) and in the mouth. Besides being a cause of cervical cancer, men are not immune either. HPV can lead to anal and penile cancer, and you know you will never be able to get a date again if you have that particular problem!
So how do you pick this one up? By walking without shoes in showers and bathrooms. Unfortunately, it is incurable and all you can do is treat a flare-up. However, you can have one extra layer of protection if you got the HPV vaccine.
Klebsiella is found in the intestines and stools of all healthy humans. However, it can also lead to urinary tract infection, meningitis, pneumonia and blood infections. The infection you get depends on how you ingested the bacteria (breathe it in and you will get pneumonia for instance.) This particular bacteria is picked up through direct contact. Expect it on the lockers at the pool, as well as one the benches – the ones where people place their bare bums after swimming! You can recover from Klebsiella with antibiotics, but be aware that the bacteria is starting to be resistant to the majority of antibiotics we know.
E. Coli is another seriously bad bacteria out there. It is a killer virus that can cause diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting and often leads to pneumonia and potentially death. The most common way to contract it is through food, but it can also be found on the various surfaces of pools, particularly the changing rooms and lockers.If you are healthy enough, you can recover by hydrating yourself and simply dealing with the pain. However, it can easily escalate and there are numerous at risk groups for whom E. coli can be deadly.
Staph, as it is generally known, generally causes infections to the skin. Generally, they are mild and show themselves as a superficial rash, a boil or some pimples. However, if left untreated, the bacteria can go deeper into the skin, leading to potentially life-threatening conditions. Some of the potential consequences can include sepsis (blood poisoning), pneumonia and meningitis. More worrying is that MRSA, the hospital super-bug and a variant of staph, has been found in pools and gyms, albeit rarely. Steph spreads through direct contact. It can be found on towels, for instance, but also on any surfaces such as the diving boards of your local pool.
Candida is a yeast infection, which can cause ringworm, athlete’s foot and thrush to name but a few conditions. Usually, this means that rashes start to appear which are incredibly itchy. It can crack and flake the skin. Furthermore, it is highly contagious, meaning you can easily cross contaminate your children on partner. It is treated through anti-fungal creams or medication, as well as antibiotics in severe cases. The infection is picked up through skin to skin contact. Hence, if someone with athlete’s foot walks along the side of your pool, you can easily pick up the infection.
Strep, as it is usually called, leads to infections of the upper respiratory tract. There are 20 types of strep bacteria out there. It is an incredibly contagious illness that is fully airborne, meaning that if someone coughs at one end of the pool, it is possible that you will pick it up. The results of strep can range from a sore throat to deadly pneumonia. Furthermore, it can affect the skin, leading to blisters and cracks. It generally has to be treated with antibiotics, with the exception of mild infections that are left to heal by themselves. Sometimes, hospitalization is needed to give a patient intravenous treatment.
Nobody is ever totally safe from the influenza – flu – virus. Depending on your immunity, it can range from annoying to deadly. As an airborne virus, it can be contracted anywhere in the pool. Someone may sneeze in your direction, or perhaps they have coughed on the key to your locker. When you have this swimming pool disease, you will experience severe bodily discomfort, including fevers and flushes, vomiting, nausea and possibly diarrhea. Plus, it can last as long as a week to heal. There is no cure for it, and people literally need to sick it out.
These are the most common swimming pool diseases out there and you may be totally horrified and have by now decided never to go again. However, bare in mind that pools are stringently checked for their sanitation several times per day and that the chances of contracting any of these bacteria and viruses is actually very small.