With the coronavirus taking the world by storm, the last thing you would want to do is put yourself or others at risk by visiting germ-filled places. However, as people tire of being stuck inside during lockdown, many are looking to summer vacation as a chance to escape, especially as certain states start to reopen. And while the idea of spending a weekend lounging by the pool at a resort may sound like a much-needed reprieve—don’t slip on your swimsuit just yet. It turns out, taking a dip in the pool could be one of the most dangerous things you can do at a hotel right now.
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that disinfecting pools with “chlorine and bromine” might actually kill any traces of COVID-19 in the water, other germs could make you sick, weaken your immune system, and put you at risk.
“If they’re not properly disinfected, hot tubs and swimming pools can lead to diarrhea, skin rashes, and respiratory illness that disrupts our immune system,” says Lina Velikova, MD, PhD. “[All of this] makes us more prone to catching COVID-19.”
According to the CDC, a third of the “treated recreational waterborne disease outbreaks” from 2000 through 2014 occurred from a hotel pool or hot tub, which resulted in at least 27,219 illnesses and eight deaths. The most common germ found in these bodies of water is Cryptosporidium, which causes gastrointestinal illness and can even survive in properly cleaned pools or hot tubs. Legionella and Pseudomonas bacterias are the other two common germs found. They can cause severe pneumonia, hot tub rash, and swimmer’s ear.
But the germs within the water aren’t the only things you should be concerned about, says Leann Poston, MD, licensed physician with Invigor Medical. It’s not easy to maintain social distancing when in or around a packed hotel pool. Not to mention, you touch a lot of surfaces that have been touched by others, from the sides of the pool to the stainless steel handrails. This is important to note as the coronavirus can survive up to 72 hours on stainless steel surfaces, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Poston also says that while she would feel safe swimming in a private pool alongside people who live in the same home as her, “the inability to maintain a six-foot distance and the inability to contain respiratory secretions in a public pool setting” increase the risk of COVID-19 and therefore, should be avoided.
“Hotel pools and spas have many guests coming in and out all of the time,” explains Poston. “There is still the risk of person-to-person spread if the social distancing and personal hygiene rules are not maintained.” And for more ways your summer vacation may change, check out the 8 Things You May Never See in Hotel Rooms Ever Again
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