Can Swimming Pools Cause a UTI?

Happy boy swimming in a swimming pool

Swimming is such a great means of working out the whole body. It is good for all age groups, fitness level, including pregnant women and swimming serve as a great relief on a hot summer. However, in as much as it has numerous mental and physical health benefits, does swimming have any relationship with UTI?

Can swimming cause UTI?  Yes!  Swimming can increase the risk of having UTI. Now read that again: Swimming can increase the risk of having UTI. However, it is very important to note that swimming cannot by itself directly cause UTI. But by swimming, your chances of getting UTI can increase or in other word you are more prone to having a UTI by swimming.

How could that be? Well firstly, what is UTI? UTI is a Urinary Tract Infection which can affect any part of the urinary system. The urinary system includes the Urethra, bladder, ureters and even the kidneys in some severe case. UTI is usually caused by bacteria (or germs) attacking these aforementioned part of the body. When bacteria find its way into your urethra from the skin and travel to the bladder, the result is often Urinary Tract Infection. A kidney infection results if bacteria climb further from the bladder to the kidneys.

Often time the bacteria that cause UTIs are lurked in the genital area and are called Escherichia coli (E. coli). Though this is the most common cause of UTI, of course you can also get UTI from other sources. For example some people are infected because the normal flow of urine is blocked, or is backed up from the bladder into the kidneys. Kidney or bladder stones can cause repeated infections, bacteria can also enter the kidneys from an infection elsewhere in the body via the bloodstream.

Records have it that over 10 million individuals visit the doctors as a result of UTI. Women are even said to be four times more likely to contract it than men. How then can propelling through water with arms and legs cause UTI? Or better still, how then can it be said that you increase your chances of getting a UTI by just swimming? 

Can You Go Swimming With a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?

Yes, you can go swimming with a UTI if you are feeling well enough. Swimming with a UTI would not make the infection worse. UTI is not contagious so you wouldn’t have to worry about infecting other people. After your done swimming, make sure you immediately remove your wet bathing suit and shower off. Have fun swimming and make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Poor Hygienic Practices

It is essential to note that Urinary Tract Infections otherwise known as UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary tract through the urethra. When left untreated, the bacteria can move to other part of the urinary system thereby causing some serious health issues. Unfortunately some of these bacteria find their way into the swimming area.

Swimming takes place in a pool or in open water such as a lake. However, some pools are full of bacteria from urine, fecal matter and vomit from adults and children. It is well known that some swimmers urinate into the pool or open water while swimming because they feel lazy to get out of the water to ease themselves- a practice that is openly condemned.

Some do not bother to shower before and after entering the pool. Showering helps to adjust the body temperature to that of the water and also helps to wash away all impurities which include fecal matter. Another disgusting thing, though sad to say, done by some parents is that some parents change diapers near the pool. Just imagine! Both the urine and the fecal particle find its way into the pool which could thus contaminate the pool and make it an oasis for bacteria.

Maintenance Measure

It is sad to say that some swimming pools are not properly kept. In fact, some public pools lack proper maintenance hence, they serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. UTI is contracted when a swimmer swim in the contaminated water and the bacteria get into the urinary tract. It is also of importance to know that if disinfectant levels in pools are not properly maintained at the appropriate levels, germs and bacteria can multiply and thus cause UTI. 

When swimming in an open water body like lake, more caution is indeed needed to be taken. Though lakes might seem like a healthier option because of their natural appeal and stunning scenery, that been said, we cannot water down the danger it poses. For example, Blue-green algae are commonly seen in lakes and can sometimes produce dangerous bacteria. Algae are often slimy and found on the surface of lakes and have a strong odor and a green color. You will need then to check the surface of the water before even thinking of swimming there. Make sure there is not any foul smell coming out from the lake as this might indicate the presence of algae that are not visible to the eye perhaps that are at the bottom of the lake. Also ensure that the lake is clear and clean before jumping in to swim. Just think of it: If you do not consider swimming in a swimming pool because you cannot see its bottom, how much more should you be careful when swimming in a lake.

Other Factors

It is not something to dispute that children mostly take some gargle while swimming. Though swallowing germ-infested water is definitely one of the ways your health could be impacted, germs can harbor and thrive on your swimming suit, especially in your genital area because this area provide a conducive environment for them. It is noted that most women wear a tight-fitting swimming suits that often time is moist and warm thus providing a perfect breeding space for bacteria which could cause a urinary tract infection. This of course, increases their risk of having UTI.

This tight, moist and warm environment is a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria. The swimmer gives the bacteria more opportunity to penetrate into the urinary tract when he or she stays in the suit for a long period of time. Women are at higher risk of contracting this infection not only because their swimming suit is more tight-fitted but also because their urethra is shorter thereby giving the bacteria a short distance to travel to reach the bladder. 

How then can we avoid UTI while swimming or should we stop going for swimming? The following measures should be taken to avoid contracting a Urinary Tract Infection

  • The first thing is to ensure that the pool is well maintained. Maintenance involves disinfecting, cleaning and testing the pool water. The likes of salt, silver, copper, ozone gas and chlorine can be used to disinfect the pool. 

However testing the pool water is highly important as excess of the disinfectant can be toxic. The pH of a pool should be between 7.2-7.8 and the free chlorine should not be greater than 1.0ppm

  • Take to your heels if you can’t see the bottom of the swimming pool as murky waters is a breeding ground for bacteria. 
  • Ensure to shower before and after swimming. Showering  before shows you take others into consideration  as it helps to wash all impurities  away while showering  after protect you from infections and disease as it helps to wash away all impurities  that might have attached itself to your skin
  • After swimming, avoid staying a long time in your swimming costumes. Remove them, shower, towel off and change into clean clothing.
  • Say NO to overcrowded pool as no amount of chlorine will help prevent contamination of the pool water. 

UTI improve within 3 days of antibiotics while complicated issues will be placed on longer period of antibiotics. 

So, by and large, though swimming on itself cannot directly give you a Urinary Tract Infection, your chances of getting one could be increase by swimming. Hence, the next time you will be propelling through water with arms and legs ensure that you follow the needed hygienic measures both pre and post. More so, an adage says: Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Happy Swimming!

Related Questions

What is the difference between Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and Recreational Water Illness (RWI)?

Recreational water illnesses (RWI are illnesses that spread when swimmers get in touch with contaminated bodies of water. According to CDC most RWIs are caused by germs contracted by swallowing, breathing, or touching bacteria-ridden water in swimming pools, rivers, lakes or oceans. On the other hand, A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an inflammation usually caused by bacteria (or germs) attacking the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra.

The major difference is: while Recreational Water Illness (RWI) could be refer to as any form of illness contracted in a contaminated water body, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) only affect the Urinary System, areas like: the Urethra, bladder, ureters and even the kidneys in some severe case.

How do you know if you’ve contracted UTI? 

Though there are many things to look for as SYMPTOMS OF UTI but if you experience any of this you could think of seeing a physician.

  • When the Frequency at which you urinate increases rapidly 
  • Back or side pain 
  • Burning or pain  while urinating
  • Fever
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pressure in the lower belly

You can confirm by going through ultrasound or CT scan.

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