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Monsoon Infections: How Safe Are Swimming Pools? Doctors Answer FAQs

Should you avoid swimming in rainy season? Here's what experts have to say.

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With incessant rainfall, moisture, and dampness comes an overdrive of bacteria, viruses, and the myriad of infections that they carry.

From common flu and gastrointestinal issues to vector-borne illnesses like dengue and malaria, FIT previously spoke to doctors about the monsoon illnesses to watch out for, especially in the flooded areas. However, waterborne diseases don't restrict themselves to dirty flood water.

They can also lurk in seemingly clean, chlorine-treated water.

So then, is it wise to go swimming in a public pool this monsoon? Experts answer your FAQs.

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What are recreational water illnesses?

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, recreational water illnesses (RWI) are caused by pathogens that specifically spread through contact with contaminated recreational water.

"Monsoon can make swimming pools hotspots for RWIs," says Dr Savyasachi Saxena, Consultant, ENT, Fortis Hospital, Noida.

"Swimming pools can get contaminated with dirty water and rainwater during monsoons and exposure to this can cause earn, nose, and even eye infections."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena, Consultant - ENT, Fortis Hospital, Noida

"You can inhale the aerosols or mist of the contaminated water and develop some respiratory illnesses. If you ingest this water, you can develop gastric issues," he adds.

Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram, says,

"Infected people can spread their saliva and other secretions in the pool water and if someone else comes into contact with it, they can also get infected."

Why do these illnesses go up during the monsoon?

"Because of the temperature and humidity, fungal and bacterial infections spread faster," says Dr Sushila Kataria.

"The risk of ring worm, which is a fungal infection, is also high at this time," she adds.

What is swimmer's ear?

Swimmer's ears refer to bacterial and fungal infections in the outer ear canal caused by water trapped in your ears.

Symptoms of swimmer's ears can include:

  • Redness

  • Tenderness in the outer ear

  • Itching

  • Swelling

  • Blocked ear

  • Decreased hearing

  • Slight fever

"Swimming naturally causes water to go into your ear canal, and one can develop this infection."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena

However, contrary to its name, swimmer's ears don't just infect those who swim. Anyone can develop it. All it takes is for water or moisture to be trapped in your ear.

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Does monsoon make swimmer's ears worse?

"Infections in the outer ear canal do tend to increase in the rainy season," says Dr Saxena.

"This is mainly because of the moisture in the air. Because water isn't able to evaporate properly from your ears at this time, it can lead to infection. If you already have some mild infection, it can get exaggerated if one goes swimming."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena, Consultant - ENT, Fortis Hospital Noida

But, having said that, he adds, "even moisture on earbuds and headphones can also be contributing factors."

How dangerous are they?

According to experts, RWIs are self limiting and resolve within a few days.

However, in case of some infections, for instance, ear infections or persisting respiratory issues, medical intervention is advised.

Should I avoid swimming during monsoons, then?

"I wouldn't say you should necessarily stop going swimming in the monsoons," says Dr Saxena. However, he does recommend maintaining proper ear and nose hygiene.

Dr Saxena and Dr Kataria both say that you should avoid going swimming if you have,

  • Blockage or tenderness in your ear

  • Trouble breathing

  • Nasal infection like sinusitis

  • Tonsillitis

  • Throat infection

  • Fever

"Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms shouldn't go swimming because it can make these worse and also spread them to others."
Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta
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How do I prepare to go swimming in the monsoon?

"If you suspect some kind of an infection or discomfort in your ears, do visit a doctor and get it checked and cleaned before you start going swimming."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena

How do I safely dry my ears after swimming?

After a swimming session, experts recommend air drying your ears naturally. "Do not use an earbud," says Dr Saxena.

"If you wait for just 10 to 15 minutes, the water will get cleared by itself. Pulling your earlobe and shaking it can help."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena

"If there's any wax or trapped water that's not clearing, go to a doctor and get it cleaned," he adds.

What are the other protective measures that must be kept in mind?

  • Avoid putting objects in your ears, like ear buds.

  • Only get your ears cleaned by a physician.

  • Keep your earphones clean and dry.

"Store your earphones in a clean box. Don't just throw them around your table, bed, etc, where they can collect moisture and infections."
Dr Savyasachi Saxena
  • Ensure that the pool is well cleaned and chlorinated regularly.

  • Keep yourself hydrated.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Swimming   Swimming Pool   Monsoon Diseases 

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