On my last couple of trips, I discovered the joy of staying in a vacation rental house or apartment. I love shopping at the local markets and cooking unique breakfasts while we get a lazy start to our day. Nothing beats feeling at home in a new neighborhood and getting a private glimpse of how the local residents live. Many of these rentals come with amazing amenities, including swimming pools and spas. Hot tubs at ski chalets in Mammoth and private pools in Costa Rica offer great opportunities to relax and keep grandchildren entertained for hours. However, I am reading about more and more cases of outbreaks of illnesses attributed to unsanitary pools and spas. There is nothing worse than planning and saving for months to take that fabulous vacation you’ve dreamed of only to come down with a mystery illness that derails the whole trip. Public pools are inspected by local health departments but how can we tell if a vacation rental pool is safe and clean? Here are a few tips to help you decide whether or not to swim.
Ask the owner or manager of the property how often the pool or spa is serviced and if it is done by a certified professional. Swimming pool water should be tested at least once a week to determine if it has the proper chemical balance and level of sanitation. Spas and hot tubs should be serviced between each set of guests. If the guests staying before you had a communicable illness and the spa wasn’t properly sanitized there is a strong possibility of transmission. Pool professionals take rigorous courses and must pass a comprehensive exam to be certified.
Carefully observe the pool before you jump in. Is the water completely clear? Can you easily see the bottom? Is the water line clean or is there a ring of scale or greasy buildup? Are there any unpleasant smells? A properly sanitized pool will not smell of chlorine. If you detect a strong scent of chlorine it is most likely chloramines which are present when ammonia from sweat and urine hasn’t been eliminated. Observe the drains and check they are covered to prevent entrapment. Is there a ground fault circuit interrupter to switch off the electrical current in the event of a fault when current is flowing through water?
Lastly, it may be wise to purchase some pool or spa test strips to tuck away in your suitcase. They will provide you with a simple measure of the sanitizer in the water. In this case chlorine is our friend. The CDC recommends chlorine to kill bacteria and viruses in public swimming pools.
By taking these simple steps, you can insure your family is swimming in safe, sanitized water.
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