Swimming is a great way to cool down from the sweltering heat and squeeze in a cardio and strength training workout, but don’t let the sight of bright blue water drown your better judgment. Not all swimming situations are created equal, and some can even land you or your loved ones in the emergency room if you’re not careful. So before you grab your pool float, review this list of red flags. These signs are clear warnings that what might look like a day of fun could spell big trouble.
1. The pool manager doesn’t test the water
Pools need a lot of care and attention to detail, and the manager on duty should be vigilant. Monitoring the chemicals is especially crucial to maintaining healthy waters. A pool’s chemical levels should be tested at least twice a day.
Pool attendants who forget to test and fail to make appropriate adjustments put swimmers’ safety at risk. If the pool’s chlorine level isn’t being carefully monitored, it may be a petri dish of bad bugs like norovirus, which can cause innocent swimmers bouts of vomiting and cramps.
2. It has cloudy or dirty water
If a pool’s water isn’t sparkling and clear, don’t even think about diving in. Not only does this condition suggests poor maintenance, but lack of visibility itself poses a threat. Be sure to also look out for broken or missing pool drain covers, which are made to reduce entrapment—when the pool’s powerful suction from the water circulation system causes someone to become trapped underwater.
3. Algae is growing in the water
Blue-green algae produces toxic cyanobacteria and can grow in poorly sanitized pools, particularly in areas that receive a lot of sunlight. The slimy and often smelly film that floats on the water’s surface is a distinct green colour, so look carefully for it before going for a swim. If there’s an off-smell, don’t go for a swim and don’t let your dog take a plunge either.
4. There are several babies in the same pool
Sure, babies in the pool are cute, but pre-potty-trained babies don’t make good swimming pals. Trace amounts of fecal matter can harbour the parasite Giardia lamblia. Diaper leakage—which is hard to prevent, especially in the water—can easily contaminate an entire pool. Accidentally ingest some of the germs, and you’re looking at a miserable bout of diarrhea and vomiting you could have avoided by sticking to the adult swim area.
5. There’s a large crowd in the pool
The expression “the more the merrier” may apply to many things, but not a public pool. It’s a matter of mathematics: Each new body multiplies the germs, viruses, and bacteria getting into the water. More and more swimmers also divide the lifeguard’s attention, which equals less safety for all. If the pool seems way too crowded, it probably is.