OSU Extension: Keeping your Kiddie Pools Safe

Sonya McDaniel, Extension Educator, FCS/CED OSU Extension Center

Small inflatable pools and plastic pools (usually 3 to 5 feet diameter) or other small water play attractions (for example, slides) have been associated with the spread of recreational water illnesses (RWIs).<https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi.html> RWIs can be spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated recreational water. These illnesses are caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium<https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/index.html>), E. coli O157:H7<https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/>, and Shigella<https://www.cdc.gov/shigella/index.html>. Add any backyard animals using the pool to cool off and your kiddie pool can get disgusting fast!

Small inflatable and plastic pools are typically filled with tap water. Although there may be some disinfectant in their tap water, it is not adequate to kill germs that may get into water used for swimming. Unlike larger pools, adding chlorine bleach may not be practical to kill germs. This is because the amount of chlorine needed cannot be easily determined or safely monitored to ensure continuous stay in the water. These pools also do not have filters to remove particles that could prevent the chlorine from working well. Using these types of pools increases the risk of spreading RWIs brought into the water by swimmers who may also not be fully potty trained and have accidents while in the pool.

The use of small inflatable and plastic pools in child care programs or schools should be discouraged. This includes small child care settings in private homes. The larger number of children from different families in child care settings and schools can increase the risk for spreading RWIs.

Any household deciding to use these types of small pools should follow the steps below to reduce the spread of illness:

Before Use

* Do not allow a child who is ill with diarrhea or vomiting to use the pool.

* Give children a cleansing soap shower or bath before they swim.

* Talk to parents or caregivers about their children's health before these children use the pool.

During Use

* Remind children to avoid getting pool water in their mouths.

* Respond to feces in the pool or a child with a dirty diaper.

* Clear the pool of children, empty, and then clean it. In the case of diarrheal incidents, once the pool has been cleaned and is completely dry, leave it in the sun for at least four hours.

After Use

* Drain or empty the pool. Medium and larger-sized inflatable and plastic pools that cannot be emptied daily should have filters and appropriate disinfection systems that meet the same codes and requirements as full-sized swimming pools.

* Clean the pool and allow it to dry. Once the pool is completely dry, leave it in the sun for at least four hours.

Remember that these small pools can also pose a drowning hazard if not properly supervised or enclosed. Local swimming pool codes may require fences around small inflatable and plastic pools.

Source: CDC.gov