Saturday, December 2, 2023


Can campground swimming pools make you sick?

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?

Pool problems

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.

Common RWIs

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.

Preventive measures

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.

Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Marci Burton (@guest_239405)
5 months ago

The campground I work at checks and records the chemical levels in the pool several times a day. It is also cleaned on a daily basis as well as frequently backflushing the filters. If anything unsanitary is found in the pool, it is shut down and shocked (super-chlorinated). It reopens when Chlorine levels are once again at a safe level. I’m not sure if we are an exception to the rule or not. This entire campground is known for its cleanliness.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles (@guest_239383)
5 months ago

10 years ago my vote would have been “all the time”. It was a good way to stretch cramped muscles and get a little exercise. What a difference a decade makes! Sometimes I’m even too tired after a day driving to shower! (Who wants to fight the morning rush when even campers with full bathrooms want to use the campground showers and you’re a lot more apt to run out of hot water)

bobby (@guest_239303)
5 months ago

its hard to keep the kids away from the pool

Michelle W. (@guest_239297)
5 months ago

It’s interesting that when I was young or even when I had young children, I never gave this a thought. But as I am an older great grandma now, I’m super cautious of ANY public facility. I avoid unless there is a powerful reason/situation otherwise. Older and wiser or more fearful about Life? I’ll cling to the “wiser” label!

Neal Davis (@guest_239249)
5 months ago

Thank you, Gail! I’ll continue not-swimming in campground pools. 😉

Bill Byerly (@guest_239159)
5 months ago

Yuck, scary stuff

xctraveler (@guest_239146)
5 months ago

I had a home swimming pool that I maintained very carefully for many years. As soon as I approach a pool I can tell whether the chemical balance is being maintained or is out of whack. It is a combination of water color, smell and the cleanliness of the area. I avoid most public pools and even many private pools. I know the pool in our home park is well maintained but I avoid it on weekends when grandkid are visiting.

MattD (@guest_239017)
5 months ago


captain gort (@guest_239010)
5 months ago

When I go on cruise ships I NEVER use the hot tubs. Ugh! Not to mention the ghastly levels of toxic chlorine they are forced to use. Just can’t be good for you.

Richard Chabrajez (@guest_239001)
5 months ago

Thanks Gail, very well written. How many of you (especially those with small children) are aware that swim diapers DO NOT PREVENT fecal bacteria from entering pool water? There is a disclaimer on every package of swim diapers, though it is often very small and inconspicuous. I owned and operated a commercial swimming pool company for 30 years. I was required to have a health license. Based on what I learned in going to school for that license, I never again swam in a commercial pool or spa.

Bob P (@guest_238980)
5 months ago

DW loves the pool and hot tub, so do a lot of other people some of which may carry a bad germ but don’t care if they infect someone else so they use these facilities also. Many campgrounds don’t have a designated pool maintenance person and simply tell someone to add the chemicals to the pool, so they grab a couple of bags and dump it in. Management relies on the honesty of campers to stay out of the water if they are sick. In todays society unfortunately to many people only think of themselves and as long as they’re having fun that’s all that’s important to them. I’m not as trusting as DW and don’t frequently use these facilities.

Tom H. (@guest_238943)
5 months ago

Very rarely will I get in a public swimming pool. Even less rarely, almost never, will I get in a public hot tub.

captain gort (@guest_239011)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom H.

Amen to THAT! However, we do have a nice spa at our Del Webb clubhouse facility that is very well maintained and not overly-subscribed…so I do use that

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