Red-eyed after a dip in the pool? CDC says it’s Urine, not Chlorine!

If you love swimming, then beware…you might be swimming in more than just plain chlorine water out there. If you’d ever had to deal with irritated, red eyes in the pool know that it has little to do with chlorine.

The true cause is nitrogen in urine binding to chlorine to form chloramine—a derivative of ammonia. “It’s not the chlorine itself,” Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program, told Today. “It’s chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us.” The compound can also make swimmers’ noses run and cause them to cough.

And pools’ “chlorine” smell isn’t actually the chlorine either. The stronger a pool’s scent, the more it is filled with pee, poop, sweat and dirt, says the CDC. “Healthy pools…don’t have a strong chemical smell.”

And there goes my love for swimming!

Chlorine is added into pools to kill harmful bacteria like E. coli. However, when urine is mixed in large quantities, chlorine has to work on eradicating it full-time, which allows germs to linger and stagnate in the water.

“I just don’t think this is on people’s radars,” Hlavsa told Today. “People think waterborne disease is something that happens outside the United States. But really, we have plenty of them here.”

The CDC’s report isn’t meant to scare people away from pools and turn them into ghost towns, but to provide some tips for healthier visits. For instance, avoid opaque, smelly pools and take children to visit the bathroom every hour – yes for everyone’s sake! Also avoid giving them too many fluids before a visit to the pool. That’s just inviting a shower and making things way worse!

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