Public pools are a great amenity, including for kids. But they’re not without certain safety and health concerns, and it’s important to be aware of them and the proper precautions. Some risks can’t be helped, really; they come with the territory. Others exist because even though public swimming pools are heavily regulated by local, state, and federal government bodies, the regulations are not always adhered to or enforced frequently enough.
In 2016, the CDC released a report after conducting more than 84,000 inspections of nearly 50,000 public aquatic venues (including pools, splash pads, hot tubs, and other types) in Florida, New York, Texas, California, and Arizona. Almost 80 percent had one or more safety or health violations, and about 1 in 8 venues required immediate closure due to serious risk to the public.
The CDC also notes that almost one-third of all swimming injuries and deaths in children occur at public swimming pools.
Below are some essential tips for swimming in public pools. They’ll help you and your family and friends stay safe and healthy while enjoying these amenities.
Public Pool Safety and Health Advice
- Check your state’s Department of Health website, as many publish inspection reports of public pools (Florida’s does this)
- If you can’t access inspection reports online, ask at the pool to see their most recent inspection results, which the public is entitled to
- Securely affix new waterproof bandages over any open wounds beforehand (and skip the public pool altogether if you have a recent open wound from a piercing or surgery)
- Confirm that the water is clear enough to see the drain cover at the bottom of the deep end; this indicates that the water is free of certain health concerns, and that lifeguards and others are able to see someone in trouble at the bottom
- Consider bringing along your own water test strips to check a public pool’s pH balance and chlorine or bromine levels; an improper pH level is the most common violation, and it can cause skin and eye irritation and may interfere with the action of the pool’s disinfecting agent
- Swim by all the drain covers and check that they’re secure; drains without secure covers can trap people under water
- Teach children to stay away from pool drains
- Get your child professional swim lessons as soon as he or she is ready; this is a key part of learning water safety and becoming a stronger swimmer who’s less at risk of drowning
- Stay in the water—within arm’s reach—with young children who aren’t strong swimmers
- An adult should still keep an eye on kids who are decent swimmers at all times, without being distracted by something like their phone or a book
- Pay attention to how much splashing and rowdiness is going on around your child; this can be frightening, and there’s a risk of injury
- No running around the pool!
- Remember that when kids are having fun, they’ll try to keep going even when they’re tired; pay attention to how children act and get them out of the water when they seem fatigued
- It’s always much safer to swim when there are lifeguards on duty
- Don’t swallow the pool water, and convey to your kids the importance of not doing so
- Alert a lifeguard or other pool personnel immediately of any safety or health concerns
- Do your part, too; don’t let kids swim if they’re sick, inform them of the importance of not peeing in the water, and make them take regular bathroom breaks; also, everyone who’s swimming should take at least a one-minute shower to rinse off first