Swimmers know that after a few laps in a pool without goggles, it’s pretty normal for your eyes to become itchy and turn red.
Most of us think it’s the chlorine in the pool that irritates the eyes, but according to the CDC, we are so unfortunately wrong.
What makes your eyes turn red after swimming in public pools is actually urine and other people’s sweat.
Through a new study, the CDC, the Water Quality and Health Council and the National Swimming Pool Foundation are now spreading the word that chlorine does not, in fact, kill all the gross things we can’t see in swimming pools.
Dr. Michael Beach, an associate director of the CDC’s Healthy Water program, explained to Women’s Health Magazine what exactly happens that makes your eyes turn red:
“Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies, and it forms these chemical irritants. That’s what’s stinging your eyes. It’s the chlorine binding to the urine and sweat.”
Chlorine can’t kill germs in the water right away; for example, the parasite cryptosporidium, which causes diarrhea, can survive up to 10 days before being killed off in a pool. Fortunately, other bacteria like E. coli is completely killed off in less than a minute.
According to Beach’s research, diarrhea outbreaks after swimming in public pools is increasing, and people who swim while suffering from diarrhea aren’t making the situation any better. Infected individuals don’t actually have to release their bowels in the pool to infect others either — diarrhea germs can also exist on the surface of the body and spread to other people through the water. That’s why you are supposed to shower before going into pools.
If you were planning on getting a swim work-out at the gym or maybe check out that hotel pool later on, you may want to read up on the CDC’s outline for staying healthy while swimming. Don’t think twice about wearing goggles — and pray you never swallow any water.