The Olympics has inspired thousands of people around the UK to head to their local pools this summer and take to the water. Though swimming’s great fun and great for you, hundreds of injuries occur every year and bothersome health condition can arise from regular pool-use. So before you dive headfirst into summer swimming fun, make sure you are aware of these pool-based hazards.
The bane of swimmers the world over, verrucas are annoying but harmless warts that are often contracted in swimming pools. Also known as ‘plantar warts’, these pesky growths can be experienced by anyone, so it’s not a reflection on your personal hygiene if you get one.
Prevention: Halting the spread of verrucas is largely down to the people who have already contracted them, but there are a couple of preventative steps you can take. If someone you know is suffering from warts, avoid sharing towels, clothing or shoes. It might sound obvious, but touching another person’s verruca, even briefly, is also not advised.
Treatment: Although most verrucas will eventually disappear on their own, there are ways of speeding up the process. Doctors at Bupa recommend using a cream or gel that contains salicylic acid, which softens and breaks down warts. It’s also your responsibility not to spread the problem any further, so if you are going swimming be sure to completely cover the affected area with one of those attractive pool socks.
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The cause of poolside slips and falls is a simple one; over-exuberant children (and adults), plus wet surface, equals abrupt loss of balance. Any form of fall around a pool could be dangerous so take some basic precautions.
Prevention: The easiest way to avoid slips and trips around the pool is straightforward – impose a strict no running policy. This is usually only a problem with children, so if you give your kids a brief pool-ban if you see them running, they’ll soon learn their lesson. If you have a swimming pool at home you fit anti-slip tiles to surround it, which offers far more traction than regular tiles.
Treatment: A slip or fall around the pool can result in anything from small scrapes and bruises, to broken bones and even drowning. Minor injuries can be treated using a first-aid kit, but any major ones (especially head injuries) warrant a visit to the hospital.
If you think you can’t get burned underwater, think again. In fact, you are actually more likely to get burnt while swimming. According to the Cancer Society, UVB rays are reflected by the pool water and the surrounding concrete, which means your body absorbs more of them.
Prevention: Wear a high factor sun cream and make sure that it’s waterproof. You should also reapply sun cream frequently throughout the day as you get in and out of the pool.
Treatment: Don’t try to soothe sore sunburn by getting back in the pool. Chlorine acts as an irritant to sunburnt skin, and can dries out the sunburn, which will lengthen the healing process. Instead, the NHS recommends gently moisturising the affected area, and using a one per cent hydrocortisone cream in more severe cases. More advice for serious sunburn is available in our health section.
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Although safety regulations have improved over the years, drowning is still a very real issue, particularly in unsupervised pools and swimming in the sea, lakes or rivers.
Prevention: Swimming is a sport that should never be done whilst unsupervised – even veteran swimmers should stick to pools with lifeguards on duty if possible. It takes under two minutes for a struggling swimmer to lose consciousness, so you need to be alert at all times if you are supervising others at a pool.
Treatment: According to the American Heart Association, the most damaging effect of drowning is hypoxia, which means the body is severely deprived of oxygen. The best way to combat this is to administer CPR as soon as possible. Even if CPR is successful and a drowning victim appears to be absolutely fine, a hospital visit is still in order just to make sure.
According to Centers for Disease Control, one in eight pools are immediately shut down following inspection because of unsatisfactory hygiene standards. Although you’d hope most pools are clean, it’s important to take appropriate steps to avoid any bacteria that may be present in the water.
Prevention: Waterborne parasites are commonly ingested through swallowing infected pool water, so it’s always a good idea to close your mouth as much as possible whilst swimming. Still not convinced? You just might change your mind after you hear that a survey by the Water Quality and Health Council found that one in five people admit to urinating while in swimming pools.
Treatment: If you are suffering from nausea, fever, vomiting or diarrhoea after a trip to the swimming pool, you might have been the victim of waterborne parasites or bacteria. Tell your doctor you’ve been swimming and they may decide to treat you with antibiotics or other drugs to flush the bugs out of your system.