Extra swimming precautions important amid COVID-19


Extra swimming precautions important amid COVID-19

Swimming is a great way to enjoy physical activity and find relief from the heat, but it’s important to take extra safety precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no evidence the COVID-19 coronavirus can spread though water in properly maintained pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds. Disinfection of the water, usually by chlorine or bromine, inactivates the virus.
The CDC and World Health Organization have yet to weigh in on the risk of COVID-19 transmission through water in the ocean, ponds, rivers and streams, but many experts agree it is very small.
“I can’t say it’s absolutely 100 percent zero risk, but I can tell you that it would never cross my mind to get COVID-19 from a swimming pool or the ocean,” Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California, told the LA Times. “It’s just extraordinarily unlikely that this would happen.”

Transmission risks

Instead, of greater concern to public health officials and health care providers is the risk of transmission between swimmers who are in close proximity to each other and through swimmers’ contact with contaminated surfaces, such as lockers or benches. 
“It’s critical people follow the same precautions at the beach or pool as they would otherwise,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health. “Even though you may be relaxing and having a good time, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.”

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Dr. Harmon says swimmers should be sure to follow social distancing guidelines in and out of the water. Heed any state or local regulations that limit the size of groups or their proximity to each other.
When not swimming, wear a face mask or cloth face covering when you are within six feet of people who aren’t part of your household.
If you need to cough or sneeze while in the water, use the crook of your elbow, and be sure to regularly wash your hands with soap and water when not swimming. Avoid touching your face as much as possible with unwashed hands. Be particularly careful in locker rooms before or after swimming.
“Have fun, but don’t let your guard down,” Dr. Harmon says. “There are a lot of physical and emotional benefits to swimming, but it’s important to take the proper precautions before you dive in.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. Gerald Harmon

Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

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