Consumer Reports: Beware swimming pool parasites

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It may be cool and relaxing on a hot summer day, but even a pool that looks clean can be swimming with microscopic parasites. (WLS)

It may be cool and relaxing on a hot summer day, but even a pool that looks clean can be swimming with microscopic parasites.

Consumer Reports dives into a common cause of swimming-related illnesses and what you can do to avoid it.

When it comes to pools, you never know what kind of germs and parasites may be lurking below the surface.

"E. coli, Giardia, Campylobacter, Norovirus. There's a lot," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

The most common culprit when it comes to swimming-related illnesses is Cryptosporidium, or Crypto for short. It's spread through fecal matter. Even a small amount can contain millions of germs.

"If a child has an accident in the pool or there's any type of elimination in the pool, we know that we have to treat it right away," said Vincent Groppa of Gunite Pools, who has been in the pool business for 35 years.

Regular levels of chlorine won't kill Crypto, which can survive in a well-maintained pool for up to ten days. It's also easy to catch. The CDC said swallowing even a mouthful of water infected with Crypto can lead to weeks of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

"They should not be swallowing the water and they shouldn't be going to the bathroom in the pool," Roberts said.

To protect yourself and your family, make sure anyone who swims in your pool follows some simple guidelines.

"Anyone who is experiencing diarrhea or has been sick should not swim. Have people take a shower or at least rinse off before they swim," Roberts said.

Also have kids take frequent bathroom breaks to reduce the risk of accidents. That goes for babies as well.

"Those swim diapers are not foolproof," Roberts said.

Groppa said if fecal matter does get into the pool, don't take any chances.

"Everybody out of the water. Shut it down," Groppa said.

The only way to effectively kill Crypto, he said, is to have a professional super-chlorinate the water and then slowly bring it back to normal levels again. The process can take at least eight hours.

"It's like a supergerm, you know, so that's the only way to take it out of the pool," Groppa said.

If you've gotten sick after swimming, your doctor can run tests to see if Crypto is the cause. If it is, the CDC said you should wait a full two weeks after the diarrhea has stopped before you get back in a pool.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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