New Jersey Poison Control Center Reminds People to Practice Safety Around Pool Chemicals

Opening home swimming pools is often an exciting event as residents are anxious to kick off their shoes and jump into their summer tradition of cooling off in their backyard pools.

Although poolside activities are a summer staple, they can come at a cost if you are not aware of potential dangers by the pool.

Before pool or hot tub water is safe to enjoy, it must be treated with chemicals to prevent algae, bacteria, viruses, parasites and other germs from contaminating the water.

If the water is untreated, swimmers and hot tub users are at high risk for infections, illnesses and skin irritation also known as recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

Such waterborne illnesses (swimmer’s ear, hot tub rash, respiratory infection, urinary tract infections, and diarrhea) are easily spread by swallowing, breathing in, or having contact with contaminated water.

Exposure to these germs can result in serious illnesses, therefore if you are feeling sick it’s important to stay out of swimming areas and hot tubs.

“Using pool chemicals to prevent the growth of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other harmful contaminants are necessary, but remember these are strong chemicals that carry significant risk for dangerous health effects if accidentally exposed or misused,” Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers, said.

Staying Safe and Healthy in the Water

The NJ Poison Control Center offers the following tips to stay healthy and injury-free while enjoying your summer days in the water.

Do not swim while sick as bacteria and other germs can contaminate the water and make others very sick. It’s easy to spread waterborne illnesses. Get out of the pool or hot tub to use the restroom; bodily fluids can contaminate water making it unsafe and dangerous.

Swallowing pool water can be dangerous. Germs and other chemicals can cause serious health effects if ingested.

Use test strips to check and maintain the necessary chemical levels (pH and chlorine) to keep the water safe.

Store chemicals in a lockable area out of sight and reach of children and pets. Keep them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area out of the sun.

Read and follow the safety directions on the product’s label during each use. Always keep chlorine and other chemicals in their original containers to avoid confusion and possible accidental ingestion.

Never mix chemicals together; the combination could create a toxic gas that could have life-threatening effects. This risk also applies to mixing chemicals with ammonia.

Chlorine should never be ingested. Avoid shaking chlorine containers to minimize dust, fumes and splashes. Avoid touching chlorine with bare hands.

Open all chemicals in well-ventilated areas, preferably outdoors. Keep chlorine away from other combustible substances.

When transporting chemicals, separate incompatible chemicals and tightly secure them to prevent spills.

Be aware that swimming in chlorinated water can have the following effects: skin irritation that can trigger rashes; burning, itchy eyes; and can trigger or aggravate bronchial problems including asthma.

Save the Poison Helpline, 1-800-222-1222, in your phone for questions, concerns and emergencies.

“Knowing the potential dangers by the pool lets you prepare and ultimately prevent an avoidable illness or injury,” Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., managing director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center, said.

COVID-19 and Pool Safety

Although coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not a waterborne illness, it is a serious lung illness spread through respiratory droplets when people stay in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

As outdoor public pools, hot tubs, and water parks/playgrounds begin to reopen, it’s extremely important to remember COVID-19 continues to cause illness in New Jersey.

All residents must do their part to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community by following safe swimming practices along with social distancing and everyday preventative actions to protect themselves.

For more resources for communities and the general public, click HERE.

If you have a medical question or concern about COVID-19, call the Coronavirus Hotline at the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 1-800-962-1253.