There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a dip in the pool after a long, hot day of RV travel, setting up your rig, and preparing dinner. But, I wondered, can campground swimming pools make you sick?
Campground swimming pools need to be properly maintained. If not, the water may contain a range of microbiological organisms—and not the good kind! Microbes including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa can definitely cause health problems. Who wants to bring home a nasty vacation souvenir like gastroenteritis, or an ear, nose, or throat infection? Not me!
Number one cause
Illnesses caused by germs found in pool water are commonly called Recreational Water Illnesses or RWIs. You probably won’t be surprised to learn the number one source of RWIs in a campground swimming pool. It’s the people who swim in it.
The most common RWI is diarrheal distress. If a swimmer has had diarrhea within the last two weeks, there’s a very good chance s/he remains contagious. This is true even if the person is feeling better—they can still infect everyone else swimming in the campground pool.
Diarrhea is caused by Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. Even a pool that appears immaculately clean can harbor these germs. What’s more, the germs can live in pool water for several hours to days.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (what a mouthful!) causes what’s commonly known as “Hot Tub Rash.” Bumpy, red spots are the main symptom and can last for a few days.
Ear infections happen from swimming under contaminated water, especially when the water remains in your ear for a day or two. Also called “Swimmer’s Ear,” symptoms can include pain, itching, and swelling of the ear.
Respiratory infections can also occur, mostly by breathing in the mist from a contaminated pool or inhaling a hot tub’s steam. The germ, Legionella, causes most common respiratory infections.
Chemical irritation in the lungs and eyes can happen as a byproduct of pool chlorine combined with human sweat (Chloramines). If you detect a strong chlorine odor when approaching a crowded campground pool, you may be smelling Chloramines. That is what causes the lung and eye irritation, and you’d be better off skipping your pool session for now and coming back when the pool isn’t so crowded.
But wait! There’s more!
Kids, women who are pregnant, people on chemotherapy, and folks suffering from immune deficiencies are especially vulnerable to pool-related illnesses. These folks can develop RWIs more quickly and experience more severe symptoms than others.
There are additional infections that can come from frequenting the campground pool, even if you stay out of the water. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) says that infections can spread by sharing towels or hair combs/brushes with other folks at the pool. So don’t do it! Bring and use only your own things.
Most reputable campgrounds remain vigilant about treating their swimming pool. However, you should make a habit of the following:
- Pool certification and licenses. When making reservations, ask: Who takes care of the pool? Does this person have a certificate or a current license to do so?
- Pool test kit. Buy a pool test kit like this one from Amazon. Use it to check the campground pool. If the disinfectant and pH levels are appropriate, you’ll feel much better about using the pool. If the test for pH and chlorine levels are not what they should be, tell the CG owners or management right away. (Hint: Be sure to keep the test strips clean and dry.)
- Regular cleaning. Well-maintained pools are cleaned and chemically treated on a regular basis. Ask management about the pool schedule. If you notice murky water, do not swim! Tell management and let them properly take care of it.
- Shower before and after. Take the time to rinse off in your RV shower or CG shower before heading to the pool. This helps remove sweat, oils, and dirt from your body, reducing the chances of introducing contaminants into the pool water. After your swim, rinse chemicals and chlorine residue off your skin and hair.
- Don’t swallow pool water. Water in the pool may contain parasites, bacteria, or other substances that can make you sick. Keep your mouth closed while swimming and encourage children to do the same.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the restroom or changing diapers. Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes while in the pool.
- Wear appropriate swimwear. Avoid swimming in regular clothes because they might introduce additional dirt and chemicals into the pool.
- Baby diapers. If your little one isn’t yet potty trained, make sure they wear swim diapers.
- Take regular bathroom breaks. Especially when swimming with your own children or grandkids, take breaks. Breaks will prevent potty “accidents” and reduce the chances of contamination. Remember that swimming can be physically demanding, so allow time to rest and rehydrate, too.
- Bring your own things. Bring your own towels, goggles, combs/brushes, and flotation devices. That way you ensure that they are clean and in good condition.
- Remain vigilant. If you notice any issues with the pool’s cleanliness, water quality, or maintenance, report your concerns to campground staff right away. They should take action to remedy the situation.
- Keep watch. If you or a child experiences RWI symptoms or reports feeling ill, take it seriously. A doctor visit may be warranted.
- Maintain healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep will help keep your immune system healthy. A strong immune system can help protect you from infection and illness.
Do you swim in the campground pool? Tell us in the following poll.