CDC Says Urine Can Cause Eye Irritation and Coughing for Swimmers

PHOTO: CDC warns beware of urine in pools.Getty Images
CDC warns beware of urine in pools.

It's probably not the chlorine.

As pools open across the country, swimmers may find they end up with red eyes or even skin irritation after a long dip in the water, but the cause may be different than you think.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that what is especially irritating for swimmers is when chlorine mixes with body fluids including sweat or even urine. As a result, by-products, called chloramines, appear in the water or even in the air near a pool.

“As the concentration of by-products in the water increases, they move into the surrounding air as well,” the CDC said on its website. “Breathing air loaded with irritants can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the concentration of irritants in the air and amount of time the air is breathed.”

When irritants end up in the air, they can cause wheezing or coughing especially for people with asthma, according to the CDC. It’s unlikely for pools to be free of the human causes of chloramines any time soon. A 2009 survey from the Water Quality and Health Council found that 1 in 5 people admit to urinating in the pool.

Swimmers at indoor pools should be especially cautious since there can be a build-up of irritants in the recycled air.

Once the air is saturated, chloramines can build up in pool water too, meaning swimmers without goggles should be careful to keep their eyes shut underwater.

The CDC recommends people take a shower before getting in the pool, make sure their pool as adequate air flow and good water quality. They also had one key suggestion for swimmers: institute regular bathroom breaks on land so there are fewer breaks being taken by swimmers in the pool.