July 19, 2013

Swimming Pools, Poop, and Ear Infections

So here's an interesting statistic... The average person has 0.14 grams of feces on their rear end. If a person does not shower prior to swimming, that 0.14 grams of stool gets washed off into the swimming pool. Kids tend to have a bit more stool on their rear end (up to 10 grams). See references below.

That means if 100 individuals enter the swimming pool in any given day without showering beforehand, anywhere from 14 grams to 1 kilogram of stool enter the swimming pool water (0.03 - 2.2 pounds).

Common organisms found include E. coli (58% of pools tested), pseudomonas (59% of pools tested), giardia and cryptosporidium (under 2% of pools tested).

Although sunlight, chlorine, and filtration helps clean the water, it takes about 60 minutes (and is why a swimming pool is shut down the rest of the day when an obvious code brown occurs).

The stool issue is worse in lakes and oceans where you can add animals using such bodies of water as a toilet.

If you are wondering how much urine is in a swimming pool, click here.

This may be one reason among many why swimming leads to increased risk of ear infections. Such ear infections include otitis externa (aka swimmer's ear) which is when the infection involves the ear canal skin or otitis media when an ear tube or a hole in the eardrum is present. It's also why many  (although not all) ENTs recommend wearing ear plugs when swimming.

Now that's all very interesting... but perhaps the biggest question is HOW in the world did the researchers determine how many grams of residual stool on average is present on people's rear ends (kids and adults)??? Anyone know the answer to this? I would love to know the reference... I imagine that perhaps a bunch of GI docs who were performing colonoscopies scraped as much residual feces around people's bungholio prior to the colonoscopy and some poor technician had the unenviable task of weighing the scraped material.

Assessment of Enteric Pathogen Shedding by Bathers during Recreational Activity and its Impact on Water Quality. Quantitative Microbiology. March 2000, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 55-68

Microbes in Pool Filter Backwash as Evidence of the Need for Improved Swimmer Hygiene. CDC Weekly. May 17, 2013 / 62(19);385-388

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In 2006 i was in college taking a scuba class , when i coughed under water and pushed pool water into my inner ear via eustation tubes. I got a double ear infection and my ears have never been the same. After i started to get a racing heart beat which was explained off as "general anxiety". I call bs on that. I had the worst fatigue of my life and couldnt even walk to my bathroom. Although i did start to get some depression and took some anxiety meds just to get through with what happened to my physical condition. Its now 2015 and im almost certain this is viral. I have issues with my erteries at the back of my neck where spine meets skull and i get dizzy easy and have eye focusing issues. I feel like im in a fog. Im going to be looking into viral tests i can order online.

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