Olympic Medalist Mom Teams up with CDC to Promote Healthy Swimming

Swimming in a properly maintained pool is a healthy and rewarding activity for people of all ages, but very few of us have the perspective of seven-time Olympic medalist swimmer and mom Amanda Beard. Beard recently partnered with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to encourage swimmers to protect themselves and their family and friends while swimming by promoting the Steps of Healthy Swimming:

Olympic champion Amanda Beard is teaching her son proper swimmer hygiene while he learns to swim.
Olympic champion Amanda Beard is teaching her son proper swimmer hygiene while he learns to swim. (photo from CDC.gov)
  • Keep the poop, germs and pee out of the water.
    • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
    • Shower with soap before swimming.
    • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
    • Wash your hands (include vigorous rubbing) after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
    • The free chlorine levels should be between 1-3 parts per million and pH should be between 7.2 and 7.8.
    • This summer the Water Quality & Health Council is offering free pool test kits at www.healthypools.org.
  • Don’t swallow the water you swim in.
  • 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.

Do the Math!

Beard’s strong focus on hygiene comes from the fact that if a swimmer fails to shower before swimming and brings feces into the pool, the pool could be contaminated with germs that cause illness. We know from a recent CDC study that fecal bacteria are present in over half of swimming pools tested. Another study estimated that a person who swims without first showering sheds an average of 0.14 g of fecal matter into the water. (Multiply the number of showerless swimmers by 0.14 g to get an estimate of the amount of fecal matter in your pool. Ugh.) Pathogens from fecal matter can infect swimmers who inadvertently swallow pool water, making them sick. And while chlorine disinfectants kill most waterborne pathogens within seconds, the process is not instantaneous, so there’s a lag time during which infection can potentially occur.

Teach Hygiene as Part of Swimming Lessons

We applaud Amanda Beard for spreading the word about the importance of swimmer hygiene. Beard is giving her three-year-old son swimming lessons and teaching him to do his part to keep the pool water clean. Swimming lessons are a wonderful gift that we can give to children to enjoy and benefit from throughout their lives. The younger they are when they learn to swim, the better. And while they are learning this life-saving skill, we suggest that all organized and informal swimming lessons include a hygiene component to help keep swimming healthy for everyone in the pool.

Remember, showering is not just a courtesy to others, it also helps keep you
and your loved ones healthy!