Tell Us How We're Doing
File a complaint
To report public health issues.
Call the Customer Call Center at:

(888) 700-9995

Telephone agents are available on Monday - Friday, 8:00AM - 5:00PM
Or visit our Environmental Health Online Complaint System

To report a foodborne illness: please visit the Foodborne Illness Complaint page
How to Find Us
County of Los Angeles
Department of Public Health
Environmental Health
5050 Commerce Drive
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(888) 700-9995



get adobe reader image

Adobe Reader
Note: PDF documents on this site were created using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or later. If you are using an earlier version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (4.x or less), document functionality may be reduced. Please Click Here

RECREATIONAL WATERS PROGRAM

Swimming Pool Information :: Swimming and Illness FAQs

Can I get sick from swimming in a pool?

Yes. Millions of people swim each year without getting sick but it is possible to become ill. Swimming is the equivalent of communal bathing. When you are in the water you are bathing with everyone else in the pool. Germs in contaminated water can get into your body if you accidentally swallow the water. They also can cause infection in your eyes, ears and nose, as well as in cuts and scrapes. Germs that get inside your body can make you ill. A pool usually becomes contaminated with germs after someone has a fecal "accident" in the pool. These accidents may be in the form of watery diarrhea. Therefore, they are not as easily noticed as a formed stool.

What are my chances of getting ill?

The exact risk is not known. If a public pool is properly maintained and chlorinated, the risk is thought to be low. However, over the past 10 years, over 150 outbreaks have been reported, involving swimming pools, large waterparks, hot tubs, spas, lakes, and rivers. We know that many outbreaks go unnoticed because people often do not consider the pool water as a possible source of illness. It may take up to several weeks for some germs to cause symptoms of illness. The longer the time period between swimming and development of illness, the less likely people are to associate their illness with swimming activity. As a result, the number of actual outbreaks is probably greater than those currently reported.

What type of diseases can I catch?

A variety of diarrheal diseases and other infections such as skin, ear, nose, throat, and respiratory infections have been linked to swimming. However, diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses associated with swimming. Diarrhea is spread when disease-causing germs from human or animal feces get into the water. You can get diarrhea by accidentally swallowing small amounts of water that contains these germs.

Is there anyone who should be more concerned with diseases spread in swimming pools?

Any swimmer who swims in or accidentally swallows fecally contaminated water can become ill. Most of the illness reported is diarrhea. Children, women who are pregnant, and people with weakened immune systems (such as HIV-infected persons, those who have received an organ transplant or those receiving certain types of chemotherapy) may be more susceptible to severe disease.

What if I have diarrhea?

Please stay out of the water if you have diarrhea. Otherwise, you may contaminate the water by spreading tiny amounts of fecal matter that rinses from your bottom as you move through the water. Although swimmers with diarrhea do not intend to contaminate the water, this is how disease is often spread.

Doesn't chlorine kill all the germs?

No. Chlorine does not kill all the germs in the water, but it does a good job of killing most of the germs. However, a few germs can survive normal pool, hot tub, and spa levels of chlorine for several hours to days. Chlorine must be maintained at proper levels to kill most of the germs. 

Can I get sick from using a spa pool?

Yes. Although you can get the same diseases from a spas as you can from a swimming pool, skin infections are the most common type of infections spread through hot tubs and spas. The high water temperature of hot tubs and spas may cause chlorine levels to dissipate faster. As a result, chlorine in hot tubs and spas needs to be checked more regularly than in swimming pools.


Can my children get diarrhea from playing and wading in an interactive water fountain?

Yes. Interactive water fountains are fountains with water sprays in areas accessible to the public where interaction with the water is encouraged. They are intended to provide individuals with a means to play in the water and get wet without actually swimming. Several diarrheal disease outbreaks have been associated with interactive water fountains. Again, anyone who accidentally swallows fecally contaminated water can become ill. When people, especially diaper-aged children, play in or soak themselves with the water jets, they can contaminate the water. This may spread germs that can make people sick.


Back to Environmental Health's Home Page
Pay for your Public Health
Permit or License
To pay for your Public Health Permit and/or License using your Credit Card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover), Debit Card, or Electronic Check (ECheck), please visit our Payment Portal .

A convenience fee per transaction will apply. The convenience fees for Credit Card, Debit Card, and Electronic Check are 2.25% of payment, $1.49, and $0.95 respectively. Please have your Account ID and your Facility ID numbers from your billing statement ready. Payment will only be accepted online for the total amount owed on an account. Terms and Conditions apply. For more information about Permit and License Billing, please visit our Payment information page .
Areas of Interest
Popular Links
Director of Environmental Health
Terri S. Williams
 
Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
Los Angeles County Seal: Enriching lives through effective and caring services