Coastal Health District

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It's Not Chlorine in the Pool That's Making Your Eyes Red


Have your eyes ever started to sting and turn red while you were swimming in a pool? Did you think it was because of the chlorine in the water? It's not actually the chlorine that makes your eyes red. It's chloramines. Chloramines form when chlorine combines with what comes out of (e.g., urine) or washes off of (e.g., sweat and personal care products) swimmers' bodies.

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Chloramines irritate the eyes and respiratory tract and can even aggravate asthma. But the mixing of chlorine with urine not only creates chloramines, it also uses up the chlorine in the pool, which would otherwise kill germs. These germs get into the water when they wash off of swimmers' bodies or when infected swimmers have diarrhea in the water. Chlorine and other pool water treatments don't kill germs instantly. And just one diarrheal incident can release enough germs into the water that swallowing a mouthful can cause diarrhea lasting up to 2-3 weeks.

Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with recreational water illnesses (RWIs), which are caused by germs found in places where we swim. The goal of RWII Prevention Week is to raise awareness about healthy and safe swimming.

Swimmers, It's Our Job to Keep Germs, Poop, and Pee out of the Water
We all share the water we swim in, and we each need to do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and our friends healthy. To help protect yourself and other swimmers from germs, here are a few simple and effective steps all swimmers can take each time we swim:

Keep the poop and pee out of the water.
• Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
• Shower with soap before you start swimming.
• Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water.
• Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
• Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Check the chlorine and pH levels before getting into the water.
• Proper chlorine (1-3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2-7.8) levels maximize
germ‐killing power.
• Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool‐supply stores sell pool test strips.
• Don't swallow the water you swim in.

Parents of young children should take a few extra steps:
• Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30-60 minutes.
• Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper‐changing area and not at poolside where
germs can rinse into the water.

Download a tip sheet here: pool-user-tips-factsheet.pdf

Remember...Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy!
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/.