What’s in the Water?

Heading out to the pool? Know about these health hazards.

WORDS SUNUJA NAIDU

An additional hazard in swimming pools is contamination by germs such as viruses, bacteria and parasites despite the use of chlorine as a disinfectant. Swallowing, breathing in or having contact with contaminated water may result in infections.
    
Some common illnesses acquired from swimming include:   

  • Diarrhoeal diseases
  • Eye infections or conjunctivitis
  • Ear canal infections
  • Skin infections such as warts or dermatitis
  • Respiratory infections

 

These illnesses can be potentially dangerous for children with a weakened immune system. Dr Mary Varughese, from the Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, National University Hospital, offers the following guidelines to protect children from waterborne illnesses:

  • Don’t swim when you or your child have diarrhoea or a skin infection. You could spread germs in the water and cause other people to fall ill
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing your baby’s diaper
  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or change their diapers often
  • Change their diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at the poolside to avoid contaminating the water
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially his rear) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of faecal matter can end up in the pool
  • Teach your child to not swallow the pool water or get it in the mouth
  • Use watertight goggles, ear plugs or bathing caps that cover your child’s eyes and ears
  • After swimming, dry your child’s ears with a towel, tilting each ear down to get rid of the water

 

In addition, having toddlers who are not potty trained wear swim diapers and proper swimwear will minimise soilage, says Dr Lim Kai Hung, family physician, Family Medicine, SMG Medical, a Singapore Medical Group. He advises parents to bathe and moisturise their little ones after a swim in the pool as chlorine exposure can lead to dry skin.

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