Pools are chock-full of chemicals, but lakes contain mysterious unknowns you don’t know are good for you. Nothing feels better when the sun beats down than a refreshing dip in the water, but you may be second-guessing yourself on whether the satisfaction is worth the health risk. What are the real side effects of swimming? Uncover how each environment affects humans for the safest swim for a relaxing summer.
What’s In A Swimming Pool?
Private pools on your property and hotel pools contain most of the same chemicals and bacteria, depending on how well owners perform upkeep and maintenance. Recreational water illnesses (RWIs), like cryptosporidium and norovirus, spread through exposure or swallowing water in these shared spaces.
Outdoor pools can contain more external influences like insects and leaves, transferring varied germs, whereas indoor pools may only have cleaning agents or other chemicals potentially influencing health. Regardless, they are equally crucial to consider.
Chlorine and bromine are the most well-known disinfecting agents for pools. The potent smell will make any swimmer wonder if chlorine concentration is enough to cause health side effects — though people and natural odors often influence the scent. There is a sweet spot for pool regulation — the chlorine is strong enough to kill detrimental bacteria without harming humans. Chlorine has a high pH level, and stabilizers prevent it from irritating the skin and eyes.
Pool managers and homeowners could avoid the most common adverse health effects with testing and disinfectants. Though the chemicals kill harmful bacteria, often it’s up to people’s unique health circumstances to determine if swimming is OK. Those with breathing problems like COPD may struggle with the chlorine smell. Swimmers with lowered immune systems could have an increased risk of RWIs that others might ignore.
What Will You Encounter Swimming In The Wild?
Wild swimming feels more enchanting because the natural greenery creates an immersive experience. However, what lies within lakes could pose different health risks than untreated pools.
Pollutants from untreated water, like sewage or urban runoff, are a few influences that could bring countless inorganic and organic pollutants to lakes. Alongside animal defecation and algal bloom, these diverse contaminants can release toxins and distribute waterborne pathogens. Swimmers could unintentionally interact with dead animals with botulism or inhale airborne compounds that algae release, causing infections, diarrhea or migraines.
Because authorities don’t treat lakes as frequently, the concentration of these harmful influences is unknown to swimmers. However, preventive measures are plentiful, and protected lakes often have resources and rangers to inquire about the water’s condition.
Regardless, asserting how other influences could positively impact health is vital. Lake water could be cooler. Immersing in cold water has countless well-researched benefits, including decreased inflammation, improved cardiovascular health and regulated blood sugar.
What Other Health Considerations Should Swimmers Have?
Many fret over RWIs and unknown bacteria, but safety is another critical consideration for human health and swimming. Pools and lakes have safety hazards but manifest in different ways:
- Pool grounds are slick, causing tripping or slipping hazards, whereas lakes don’t have this as much — unless you’re rock hopping.
- Lakes have wild animals, like bugs and fish, that could bite or sting, whereas pools only have other humans and sometimes insects.
- Pools often require interactions with other people in confined spaces that include playing or diving, whereas lakes have more open areas free from impacts or shallow concrete floors.
- Lakes can be deep and have natural currents where swimmers could struggle if they aren’t seasoned, often without the help of lifeguards. Pools have staff to ensure safety.
These are only a few safety concerns that can also influence human health. Despite each environment providing unique hazards, both situations could improve immune systems and provide terrific mental health benefits.
Being out in nature and the sunshine has inarguable benefits for bolstering mood by releasing endorphins. Plus, it provides relaxation. Swimming, especially with friends and family, can do wonders for finding fulfillment in a monotonous or anxious schedule. It increases energy and physical activity for countless other health boons like improved heart rate and blood pressure.
Choosing Between Wild And Luxury Swimming
Each environment poses a health risk to swimmers, yet the chances of illness or injury are circumstantial to your body and the water. Swimming in a well-maintained pool could be safer than a lake if you choose the right facility, and on other days, the lake may contain fewer germs than a pool lacking oversight. The key is to understand your body and listen to its signals while researching the locations you want to swim. These efforts should be enough to swim worry-free and enjoy the summer.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.