La La How The Life Goes On

We Don’t Swim in Your Toilet

Posted on: August 9, 2011

A kid in my youth group growing up had a pool over which that sign hung: “…so please don’t pee in our pool.” I thought it was hilarious..and I really, really DID attempt to not pee, but I would not want to go on the record with Linda Tripp or Ken Starr stating it as fact, is all I’m sayin’.

That said, my doctor banned me from public swimming pools since my transplant, which has frustrated me no end since my kids do actually deserve the chance to hang out at a pool, and their father does actually have to work during the day. So their pool experiences are limited as a result. Bah. See me complain and murmur about the unfairness and nonsense of it all.

Fast forward to last week when Baby Sister tells me her finger hurts. I consider advising her to stop asking people to pull it, but I refrain. Then I take a look at it: red, shiny, swollen, weird. No cut to be seen, but definitely not right. So I take her to the doctor, expecting to be sent home, branded a Munchausen-by-proxy freak. Hellooooo. Staph infection complete with the red streak down the finger indicating the start of blood poisoning, commonly known as sepsis. Holy Fng Sht. The doctor said we’d have been in trouble if we’d brought her even a day later because it was already on its way to being something much larger and scarier than a finger infection.

Which began the investigation into where she could possibly have contracted this thing. (She was not contagious because she did not have an open wound, btw, for those of you picturing suppurating boils and the like). The likeliest cause is–surprise–her preschool pool. They swim every day, and the MD said if she had even a hangnail or something and was touching the sides of the pool (which they do because they are all just learning to swim) that it could happen.

Which began my freakout about the pool she is in every day. Apparently it’s just not that uncommon for kids to get staph from pools, locker rooms, and anywhere else that’s wet, humid and frequented by people’s noses, mouths and feet. Well, big humble apologies to Dr. Antin for my grumbling, because–holy crap–the LAST thing I need is staph. I was like, can I go in up to my knees? Can I go up to my hips? No and No. Because if I have a minor skin irritation or cut, who the hell knows what can get in it. Nice. Apparently staph is one such thing.

My pool research (and you can thank me later, pool lovers) via the CDC and related links, tells me that the upsurge in childhood “gastroenteritis” ie, diarrhea was usually considered to be a seasonal virus but more and more studies are seeing the causation between increased pool usage and kiddie blowouts. Why, you say? Doesn’t the chlorine disinfect the water?!! It does. If it’s done perfectly. But it does not kill germs on YOU, so if you have staph and touch a surface, that surface has staph. If you don’t wipe your butt properly before swimming, and then sit on the edge of the pool, that edge of the pool has E. Coli. In fact, (and please be sure to stop eating right now if you wish to continue), the average pool in a day contains 3 to 4 POUNDS of fecal matter from adults who do not wipe properly prior to swimming. So think real carefully before you take that gulp of water, friends.

So if I haven’t ruined your summer plans yet, let me also reveal that chlorine does not kill cryptosporidium for SEVEN days. So you can be in a well-maintained pool that still serves as a floating petrie dish for chlorine-resistant diarrhea-causing parasites.

Sadly, after learning all this information, I learned that it’s all in a day’s work for a public pool and that there is no draining and cleaning or anything like that done for any of this stuff (unless of course some kid drops a dumpadoo floater in the middle of a lap lane) because it’s just considered standard. Which is precisely why immune-challenged people are not allowed to swim, and why a kid can go to preschool with a backpack and come home with staphlococcus aureus.**

Y’all have a nice summer now, y’hear?! Don’t drink the water!

**In fairness, there is no definitive proof that the pool was the vector for the staph, but rather a supposition based on the MD’s experience, so don’t go marching on them demanding a week-long cloroxing or anything. Also do not sue me for slander or whatever, pool organization, or I’ll have to do an Oprah and call in Dr. Phil to consult; and no one wants that, right? Suffer the conjecture of one little blog post from a nobody hausfrau–or suffer weeks of a large man bellowing, “How’s that workin’ for ya!?” and “That dog ain’t gon’ hunt!” Do the right thing, for all our sakes.


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