Swimming is a popular low-impact activity that is great for improving general health and wellbeing. While there are key steps for water managers to maintain water quality so it is safe for swimming, there are also simple steps everyone can follow to keep yourself and others healthy when swimming.
Whether you are swimming in your local public pool, soaking in a spa or surfing in the ocean, regardless of the location, there are simple steps you should follow to minimise the risk of getting sick. These simple steps also prevent you from contaminating the water and potentially making others sick. It is up to everyone to help keep the water clean.
Chlorine is able to kill most germs, but it doesn’t happen straight away. Some germs such as Cryptosporidium
can live in pool water for days and still remain infective. Showering with soap before entering the pool will help prevent contaminants on your body from getting in the water.
Contaminating pool water
We all have germs on our body which can wash off and contaminate the pool water. We are more likely to carry germs that can make others sick when we are not feeling well.
To keep germs out of the pool, it’s important not to go swimming when you have diarrhoea. If you have been diagnosed with Cryptosporidiosis (crypto), then you must not swim for 14 days after diarrhoea stops. If you have diarrhoea and are unsure of the cause, as a precaution, do not swim for 14 days after diarrhoea stops.
Stay out of the pool with an infection
Depending on the infection you have, you are advised to stay out of the water for a certain amount of time. For example:
- Chickenpox – avoid swimming for seven days after the rash appears.
- Cryptosporidiosis (crypto) – do not swim for 14 days after diarrhoea stops.
- Tinea corporis (athlete’s foot) – do not swim until a day after treatment has started.
Tips for swimmers
By following simple steps to healthy swimming, you can make sure you help to keep pools clean and safe for everyone to swim in.
These steps include:
- Do not swim if you have diarrhoea.
- Always shower and wash thoroughly with soap (especially your bottom) before you swim.
- Always wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet or changing a nappy.
- Avoid swallowing pool water.
Tips for parents
- Keep an eye on your children at all times.
- Take children on frequent toilet breaks every hour or check nappies every 30–60 minutes.
- Change nappies in nappy-changing areas only. Do not change nappies by the poolside.
- Non-toilet trained children should wear tight-fitting waterproof nappies.
Take precautions when swimming or undertaking water sports
When swimming or undertaking water sports, take extra precautions to stay safe in and around water, including:
- Check weather conditions and warnings before you leave.
- Avoid swimming in rivers or open water bodies after heavy rainfall.
- Wear appropriate footwear to avoid cutting feet.
- Never dive into a river or shallow water
- Look for signage and any warnings that may be posted about water quality.
- Cover cuts or abrasions with waterproof dressings before entering the water.
- For kayakers, avoid Eskimo rolls or capsize drills in poor quality water.
- Shower after water-based sport.
- Seek advice from your doctor if you are injured or become unwell after water-based sport. Remember to let them know about your recent activities.
Reduce your sunburn risk by:
- Slip – on sun-protective clothing (make sure it covers as much skin as possible).
- Slop – on SPF (sun protection factor) 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen. Apply 20 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply every two hours.
- Slap – on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
- Seek – shade.
- Slide – on sunglasses (make sure they meet Australian Standard AS1067).
Where to get help
- Your local swimming pool
- Environmental Health Officer at your local council.
- Department of Health, Water program Tel. 1300 761 874
- Life Saving Victoria Tel. (03) 9676 6900
Things to remember
- Do not swim if you have diarrhoea or have had diarrhoea in the past 14 days.
- Shower and wash thoroughly with soap before you start swimming.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet, changing a nappy, and before preparing and eating food.
- Avoid swallowing pool water. Inform the pool operator of faecal accidents and if you become ill after swimming at a public pool.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Health Protection - Environmental Health Unit
Page content currently being reviewed.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.