Little girl in arm bands

Coronavirus and swimming: a family safety guide

Is it safe to swim in an indoor swimming pool in this time of coronavirus?

Within this new world of ever-changing restrictions to our daily lives and activities, swimming pools are one of the venues that are open and able to provide some much-needed exercise, relaxation and fun for families.

However many families, of course, will be understandably wary about how safe swimming is due to coronavirus.

So what is the science behind coronavirus transmission at the swimming pool?

And what kind of precautions should families be taking?

The science of transmission

The good news is that there is not thought to be a risk of catching COVID-19 from the water itself.

As Dr Julian Tang, from the University of Leicester, told the Huffington Post: “The water itself, with the standard bleach or other detergent-based disinfectants, will be effective in killing this virus – it is lipid-enveloped and fragile.”

This means that, even if the virus were to enter the water, it would not last long.  

This does not mean that swimming pools are entirely safe, however.

Although the water itself does not act as a vector of transmission, the environment around the pool can still pose a risk.

If the swimming pool is outdoors, this risk is diminished, but if the pool is indoors then the COVID-19 risk would, in theory, be similar to visiting a pub or restaurant.

This is because you would be in an indoor environment, sharing the air with others who are not wearing face masks.

In reality, however, a swimming pool is not likely to be busy – and many will have limited, pre-booked slots to keep the numbers down.

If social distancing is observed between visitors, the risk can be reduced even further.  

For children, it’s likely that a normal day at school actually poses a greater COVID-19 risk than going to a swimming pool – as they will be meeting fewer people at the pool.

Swimming safety precautions

As with many other locations in the current climate, precautions will need to be considered if you’re visiting a swimming pool with your family.

There are extra considerations specific to swimming pools, too.

Swim England recommends that swimmers take showers at home instead of at the pool, both before and after their swim.

To further reduce time spent in the changing rooms, swimmers are also advised to wear their swimming costume beneath their clothes when they arrive.

Other recommendations include being mindful of social distancing both in and out of the pool, and bringing hand sanitiser and a pre-filled water bottle along with you.

It’s also a good idea to wear face masks where you can, in public areas outside of the pool – such as the entrance foyer and changing rooms. Although children under 11 are exempt from wearing face coverings in the UK, you may choose otherwise. 

Safety precautions need to be taken at swimming pools in normal times too, of course, and these still apply (especially for families with young children):

  • Don’t run. Surfaces are slippery near the pool, and so children should never run – no matter how excited they are! 
  • Use flotation aids. For younger children, or those who are still learning to swim, flotation aids are a necessary precaution. Whether it’s individual arm bands or big floats, make sure you have enough with you.
  • Keep a careful watch. Children need to be supervised carefully when they’re swimming, especially if they’re not yet confident in the water, and water safety signs need to be respected at all times. It’s normal for children to play games in the pool, of course, but these can sometimes get out of hand. Make sure they’re not playing too roughly with each other, and remind them of the importance of keeping each other safe. Children shouldn’t hold others under the water, for example, or dive into the pool – as this can be very dangerous.

The benefits of swimming

It’s important to emphasise that, despite the important safety measures that do need to be kept in mind, swimming is still a very safe activity for the whole family to enjoy. Although extra care does need to be taken due to COVID-19, families can take courage from the scientific view that the water itself does not pose an infection risk. 

With winter approaching, and outdoor activities less attractive due to the cold weather, swimming may be an even more important way for the family to keep exercising.

It’s well-documented how important exercise is for our health, and it’s also important that families engage in group activities together during this challenging time.

Swimming ticks all these boxes, and so it should definitely be considered – just make sure all the right precautions are taken! 

This article was supplied by Bazuka

Further reading

A parent's guide to swimming pool safety and hygiene — Bazuka



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