Is It Safe to Swim in a Pool During COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way many of us live our lives. From the way we work to the way we exercise, we’ve had to radically reimagine how we go about our daily business.

For swimmers, many of us are understandably concerned about what swimming will look like in a post-pandemic world and are worried about the risk the virus may pose while doing what we love.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about swimming during COVID-19. We’ll examine how much of a threat the virus poses in the swimming environment as well as share top tips for getting back into the water during (and after) the pandemic.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Will It Be Safe To Swim In a Pool When They Open? 

The overwhelming medical consensus is that there’s a very minimal risk of contracting coronavirus while you’re actually swimming in the pool. In fact, while you’re in the water, you may be safer than when you’re on land. There are 2 main reasons for this:

1. Covid-19 Doesn’t Spread Through Water

According to the US Government Centers for Disease Control, there is “no evidence” that coronavirus can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. 

That’s because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, not water-borne. This means that it’s transmitted through saliva droplets that travel through the air when people speak, sneeze or cough.

This means that while you’re actually swimming in the water, as long as you maintain social distancing at the wall, it’s near impossible for you to become infected with COVID-19, even if you accidentally swallow half the pool during a mistimed tumble-turn.

 

2. Pool Chemicals Are Effective At Killing The Virus

Secondly, chemicals like chlorine that are used to sanitise pool water are extremely effective at destroying the cellular structure of viruses similar to COVID-19 virus. 

According to the World Health Organisation, a chlorine concentration above 0.5mg/l is sufficient to eradicate viruses such as COVID-19. And the UK-based Pool Water Treatment & Advisory Group confirmed that coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorine used in swimming pools across the UK.

Indeed, pretty much all of the evidence on coronaviruses says that they can’t survive in properly treated pool water. Source

However, while you’re safe in the water, there are risks you should be aware of associated with other aspects of going for a swim, namely the time you spend in the showers and changing rooms.

What About Changing Rooms And Showers?

Just like any other crowded environment such as supermarkets or offices, when there’s a collection of people all using the same facilities the risk of spreading the virus between people starts to increase.

The largest risk for contracting the virus in swimming pools is in common areas such as the showers or changing rooms. Here it’s much more likely that you could find yourself close to an infected person who could spread the disease to you via coughing or sneezing

It’s also possible that you could catch the virus by coming in contact with surfaces that have been touched by infected persons. However, according to the CDC, that’s not the main way through which the virus spreads.

So, rather than be concerned with pool water, it’s more important to be wary of the other swimmers using the facilities at the same time as you. 

That means it’s essential to practice the same precautions advocated by public health bodies: practising social distancing, avoid potentially contaminated surfaces, not touching your face and practising good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly using soap or hand sanitiser.

In addition to the Government guidelines, Swim England have created a comprehensive list of precautions to help mitigate the risks posed by coronavirus in the pool environment. These include things such as turning up to the pool ready to swim and avoiding wide-arm strokes such as butterfly in busy lanes.

What Do the New Swim England Guidelines Say?

The new Swim England Guidelines for pool users are designed to keep everyone safe. Here’s a quick overview of the key advice:

  • Avoid going swimming if you have any symptoms of COVID-19
  • Double-check your local pool’s timetable before you leave home
  • Shower pre & post-swim at home where possible
  • Arrive at the pool in your swimsuit  to cut down the time spent in the changing rooms
  • Clearly label all your swimming gear such as paddles, water bottles & kickboards
  • Do not overtake other swimmers, allow faster swimmers through at the wall
  • Avoid butterfly in busy lanes
  • Keep your head turned away from other swimmers when resting & leave enough space for them to turn

If you’re thinking about going swimming it’s worth viewing the full document to see all the advice by clicking here

Additionally, it’s always good practice to call your local pool to find out if they have their own guidelines before you swim – there may be special restrictions or rules in place that you need to abide by.

In Summary

Overall, it’s been very frustrating to be away from the pool for such an extended period of time.

However, on the bright side, swimming isn’t entirely out of the question this summer. Pool operators will be eagerly awaiting Government advice that allows them to reopen their doors, and our fingers are crossed that it’ll come before the end of the summer period.

When we do finally get back to the comfort of swimming in pools, it’s good to be able to relax in the knowledge that the risks of contracting the virus in the water are almost zero. 

And while there are some risks associated with other areas of the swimming pool, with proper adherence to guidelines and regulations, those can be significantly reduced too.

One thing is for sure, like every other social activity, the new swimming experience will be different than in years gone by. 

But we’re willing to bet when you pull on your swimsuit, adjust your goggles and dive in for your first length – the stresses and strains of the day will melt away, just like they always have.

Please note: While we’ve taken every precaution to ensure the advice contained within is accurate, this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. For definitive health-related information in the UK, please consult the NHS COVID-19 resource. Readers from outside the UK should seek advice from their own local or national health service.