Can STDs Be Transmitted Through Swimming Pools? An Expert Weighs In

Splish, splash, STD?

25/07/2016 12:00 AM AEST | Updated 25/07/2016 12:00 AM AEST

The Question: Is it possible to catch STDs from swimming in a pool or hot tub?

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No, not unless you’re having sex in the pool with someone who has an STD.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an individual can only pass on an STD through direct person-to-person contact. Take syphilis, for example. The disease cannot be transmitted through casual contact with doorknobs, seats, eating utensils, or pools.

Dr. Edward Brooks, an infectious disease specialist  at Stanford Health Care, explains that there is no evidence that an individual can get an STD from casually swimming in a pool. Transmission of STDs through a hot tub or pool are only possible if two people are engaging in sexual activity while in the water. An intimate exchange of bodily fluids is necessary in order for those types of diseases to be passed along to someone else.

Although you may have dodged that STD bullet, it’s important to remember that there are other diseases one can get from being in a pool. 

“The most common are diarrheal illnesses, transmitted by ingesting the organism accidentally while swimming in the pool,” Brooks said.

These types of illnesses are mainly caused by fecal contamination, which is when someone who has diarrhea goes swimming and contaminates the water with an infectious microorganism. Once the microorganism is in the water, people who ingest enough of it while swimming could become sick.

In order to protect yourself from such diseases, Brooks explains that it’s important to make sure all pools or hot tubs you choose to swim in are well-maintained. If you are using public facilities, it would be smart to verify that the facility is meeting chlorine and PH balance standards. If you have a pool of your own, learn how to correctly maintain it or hire an outside service to ensure it is being done adequately. 

All public freshwater pools should be cleaned and disinfected with chlorine products, the substance used to kill bacteria, most viruses and algae. Without the use of these chemicals, we would almost always be swimming in a giant puddle of germs. Let’s just take a moment to let that sink in ― yuck!

The CDC has set of science-based guidelines that local and state public health authorities can use to create their own regulations to monitor the safety of public pools. 

Brooks also said that it is very important to practice good hygiene. Take a shower before and after you go swimming to prevent the transfer of diarrheal illnesses. Also be sure to clean your bathing suit with soap and water after use.

To sum it all up, the only STDs you can get while swimming are those passed through intimate sexual contact with someone who has an infection. Practicing good hygiene, like showering before and after swimming and properly cleaning your swimsuit, can help keep you safe from the most common waterborne illnesses that could be lurking beneath the surface.

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