Shouldn't you be able to see the bottom?
February 21, 2007 8:02 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop myself getting skin / ear / eye / anything infections after swimming in a dirty pool?

I went swimming in an (expensive gym) pool today. There were loads of kids in the water and it looked murky, with stuff floating in the water and scattered on the bottom. It didn't seem very chlorinated.

I didn't stay long. I got out and showered. When I got home my skin was itching in patches, my eyes were stinging and my left ear felt vaguely tight. I've had another shower with plenty of soap and flushed my eyes with drops, but no improvement. What can I do now to avoid the lurgy?
posted by TrashyRambo to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
See a doctor.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:11 PM on February 21, 2007

This needs the "lurgy" tag.

That said, are you sure the pool wasn't over-chlorinated? The chlorine in the water should seriously reduce the risk of any kind of water-born critters, but sometimes the water can be too chlorinated, leading to irritation similar to what you're experiencing.
posted by lekvar at 8:15 PM on February 21, 2007

Your reaction sounds like an issue that mainly happens in older fiberglass pools. It's a slight irritation that should go away.

That being said a guy I played water polo with used to pour straight rubbing or Isopropyl alcohol in his ears to prevent infections.

As another note. Chlorination and "dirtyness" of a pool are separate issues. No matter how well you chlorinate a pool, this won't keep crap out of the water if your filters aren't working. It will kill bacteria however. In this vein it's a common myth that chlorine is what makes your eyes sting. This isn't precisely true. Chlorine is a base so adding it to the pool makes the water basic (which will make your eyes sting) so then there is a need to add acid (If memory serves it's hydrochloric though I could be wrong) to bring the water back to neutral. Incorrect proportions makes the water acidic or basic and that makes your eyes sting.

That being said I'm pretty sure it's the fiberglass issue.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:58 PM on February 21, 2007

Best answer: What you describe sounds too chlorinated. And it is not worth seeing a doctor over, unless you get an actual ear infection. If you are prone to ear infections, use ear plugs (the silicone kind) and pull your cap over your ears. Use goggles and your eyes won't sting. Put lotion on, and if the overchlorination persists, put on lotion before you get in. Don't think about all the crap in the water. Stuff on the bottom just means it hasn't been vacuumed, which can be gross, but doesn't necessarily indicate what is in the water.

As of now, just put on lotion and, if you really want to, put alcohol in your ear to help dry it out. Google for more explicit instructions (water in ear, swimmers ear).
posted by dame at 8:59 PM on February 21, 2007

A little rubbing alcohol in the ear works for me. Can't hurt.
posted by vronsky at 9:16 PM on February 21, 2007

You really shouldn't stick stuff in your ear. It's a bad thing. Best thing to do in case of possible infection is to see a doctor & get antibiotics & stuff asap, just to be safe. And to quit swimming in disgusting water.
Trust the girl who was nowhere near a good doctor and had an ear infection rupture her eardrum last May. (Me.) You don't want to go through that. My ear is messed up possibly forever... and I've not enjoyed a single second of the experience.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:45 PM on February 21, 2007

I don't believe the symptoms you report after immediately leaving the pool would have anything whatsoever to do with infection. Either they are psychosomatic as a result of your being incensed by the state of the pool or else they are allergic responses which are more likely due to the chlorine (the brand used by this particular pool for instance).

Don't put alcohol in your ear. "what's the worse that can happen" is that you dissolve the natural wax (a primitive but effective anti-infection environment), kill off the normal flora and make yourself more susceptible to infections by organisms that don't normally live in that area.

Put some sorbolene on the itch. Leave your eyes alone now. Get eye goggles for your next swim. Find a pool that doesn't wig you out.
posted by peacay at 12:50 AM on February 22, 2007

Oh, jesus. Half my swim team puts alcohol in their ears after practice. Doctors have recommended it to them. It dries out the water. On the other hand, taking antibiotics you don't need is bad for you and bad for everyone else, too. I suggest you listen to the people who swim and not the people scarred by an ear infection (though the latter would totally suck).
posted by dame at 4:36 AM on February 22, 2007

After reading around I concede I was wrong about alcohol. Sorry.
posted by peacay at 5:08 AM on February 22, 2007

Peroxide is also fine in your ears. My doctor's office uses a squirt to dry out the water after they irrigate my ears, which is needed because I'm one of those people who produces excess wax and it gets stuck. (And no, I don't use Q-tips.)
posted by IndigoRain at 5:50 AM on February 22, 2007

Anytime you swim in water with other people you are putting yourself at risk of swimming in all sorts of filth. There is no way around this. Follow dame's advice but whatever you do, don't swallow the water!

There are soaps and shampoos that neutralize the chlorine. Google "swimmer soap".
posted by JJ86 at 6:24 AM on February 22, 2007

o lordy - the alcohol ( or peroxide) was recommended by my dad, who lets see, was chief of thoracic surgery, so i will trust him as opposed to idiot googlers and earwax acolytes.
posted by vronsky at 7:48 AM on February 22, 2007

You can also pick up at a drug store ear drops that are specifically designed to dry out your ears, if you want to reassure yourself. But whether those or simply some sort of alcohol, speaking from lots of experience with swimming and getting ear infections, you really should use something if you seem prone to ear infections.

Also, after swimming in chlorinated water (and particularly if it's over-chlorinated, as it sounds it is), be sure to shampoo your hair (to keep it from changing colors and becoming brittle) and brush your teeth (to keep them from yellowing).
posted by J-Train at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2007

Geez. I wasn't talking about the alcohol, I was simply saying it's not good to insert things into the ear canal... something I've heard 8 ear specialists repeat to me over & over for the past 9 months.

And I wasn't prescribing antibiotics to anyone. I was prescribing GOING TO A DOCTOR if it seemed something was infected.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2007

That makes no sense. No one suggested sticking anything in the posters' ear but alcohol.

You also wrote, "Best thing to do in case of possible infection is to see a doctor & get antibiotics & stuff asap, just to be safe." That sounds like you are suggesting someone go get antibiotics without knowing they are infected. How about this: If your ear is infected, which you will know when it hurts like the dickens, go to the doctor. If it isn't or is just a little uncomfortable, let your body clear it so you don't put people at risk with frivolous, "just in case" antibiotics use.
posted by dame at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2007

Another option other than alcohol which was recommended by a specialist I saw was 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water.
posted by skinnydipp at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2007

To dab alcohol in the ear, some people will use a q-tip deep into the ear canal. That is what I was referring to, however I deeply regret that since I was typing the first answer in a hurry I was not as clear as I needed to be about what I meant. I was not talking about the alcohol itself. (Duh.) I was just repeating the advice given to me by the specialists I have to see regularly.

And I said the stuff about "in case of infection" because I was the only person out of 6 friends who didn't contract a parasite from swimming in contaminated water in Indonesia in 1998. All we could figure was that my luck was because of the precautionary measures I took, as that was the only difference between my friends & me... we did everything else the same. They were horribly sick for 6 months. I wasn't sick a day.

But I digress, this post isn't about me & how lame I am. So you can just accept that I was possibly saying something from experience & just trying to help FWIW... or you can go ahead & call me an idiot & pick me apart. Whatever. Go for it. I just wish the OP all the best & hope that the worry that prompted this post ends up being totally unnecessary. :)

Good luck!
posted by miss lynnster at 3:40 PM on February 22, 2007

I didn't say you were lame, but that your advice was bad. I'm sorry if you felt attacked by the way I expressed that. I have no beef with you. (I will note a pool in the first world, though, is not contaminated water in the third.)
posted by dame at 4:42 AM on February 23, 2007

Nice. "I don't think you're lame, but what you just said is wrong too." OKAY I GET IT. Everything I say sucks. Enough already. You win! Rock on.

If you are going to pick apart everyone piece of "bad" advice on AskMe, you're going to be a very busy woman. That could be a full-time job. What you said obviously helped the OP (it's really the OP's job to figure out what advice is good and bad), so why not focus on the fact that you helped him? Be happy about that instead of focusing on trying to push my head underwater for saying stuff you consider stupid. Have I said that I was perfect? No. I am just on here making conversation and just doing what people do here... expressing my experience to try to help someone. YMMV. FWIW. And all that.

The purpose of AskMe is to help people & to make good conversation. The first part of that has been achieved on this post. So yay.

And once again, good luck to the OP. I hope you don't have a single problem & I apologize for the derail. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:21 AM on February 23, 2007

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