Staying Safe When Swimming

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There are numerous health benefits to swimming. In fact, it’s one of the best forms of physical exercise for both your muscles and your heart.

However, there are also health risks that avid swimmers need to be wary of. Here are just some of the common health problems that you’re at risk of when you regularly swim in a pool – and how you can avoid them.

Swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the ear canal that can occur after getting water in the ears. Bacteria or fungus may start to grow in the ear, causing pain and swelling. If you think you’ve got this infection, your best option is to see an ENT. These are doctors that specialise in the ears and sinuses.

You can avoid swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry while swimming. Wearing a swimming cap is the best way to do this.

Chlorine rashes

Swimming pools are full of chlorine. Some people can develop allergies to chlorine, including asthma and most notably skin rashes.

Most people experience rashes after being in the water for long periods, but if you consistently get rashes after only being in the pool a small while you may want to see a doctor. Taking a shower or bath after being in the pool to wash off the chlorine can usually prevent rashes. Applying petroleum jelly on areas susceptible to rashes can also help to prevent symptoms.

Legionnaire’s disease

While most pools are regularly cleaned, some may still contain germs such as legionella. If inhaled, this germ can get into the lungs and cause legionnaire’s disease – which can be potentially fatal. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and persistent coughing (often with mucus or blood).

You should be safe in most public pools, however you may want to be more careful if swimming in a home pool – make sure that you follow a thorough cleaning schedule. Unclean hot tubs are also a major cause of this disease.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that usually affects the foot. It’s passed on by contact with another infected person – but it can also be caught from locker rooms floors, public showers and areas around pool where people regularly walk barefoot.

You can treat athlete’s foot with over-the-counter medication. When recovering, make sure to avoid pools so that you don’t spread it to others. To prevent yourself from catching it, consider always wearing sandals or flip flops when walking around the pool or using the showers/locker rooms.

Dry drowning/secondary drowning

If you accidentally swallow or inhale water while swimming and experience breathing difficulty afterwards, it could be a sign of something serious. While most common in children, ‘dry drowning’ and ‘secondary drowning’ (sometimes medically referred to as ‘post immersion syndrome’) can occur in adults – and it can be fatal. Dry drowning occurs when the vocals cords go into spasm as result of water trapped in the airways, while secondary drowning occurs when water enters the lungs.

In both cases, you’ll experience breathing difficulties soon after getting out of the water and should seek emergency attention. If you’re being careful in the water, you generally won’t be at risk of dry drowning/secondary drowning – falling the water by surprise or diving incorrectly may be times when you want to watch out.


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