Health – Swimming


The pleasures of swimming while abroad can be immense. Nevertheless there are risks and naturally care must be taken to ensure that silly and potentially dangerous mistakes are limited, if not fully avoided. Risks relates to where a traveller intends to swim and the safety factors in that area. 

Swimming Pools 

Swimming pools in most resorts are clean and safe, more so at pools where qualified lifeguards are on duty. At most of these pools risk of drowning or infection is very small but basic care should always be taken.  

  • You should only swim if lifeguards are on duty when the pool is open.
  • See how clean the pool is kept before entering the water. You should always be able to see the bottom, also consider the state of the changing facilities, a dirty change room could imply a lack of pool maintenance. Another tell-tale sign of a dirty pool is a clogged water filter. Don’t risk infection by swimming in a dirty pool.
  • Don’t enter a pool if it is not well chlorinated – the risk of picking up an infection in a well chlorinated pool is generally quite low.
  • Conversely over chlorination can cause eye and skin irritation with some susceptible travellers contracting conjunctivitis which may be caused by chemical agents (like chlorine) or infection. Reduce the risk by wearing goggles. Relieve eye irritation by using an eye bathing solution.
  • Consider that infection is more likely to occur in and around children’s pools due to the release of faecal matter from inadequately secured nappies.
  • If it’s an open-air pool is there any shade available?

The Sea 

Never underestimate the power of the sea especially when you’re not familiar with local currents and conditions. 

  • Coral reefs are a big attraction but often have unexpected strong currents that often catches even the best swimmers off guard.
  • Get good local advice and stick to it.
  • Although you might be used to fish and other sea animals, as a traveller you should be aware of the other ‘monsters of the deep’ that may lurk around the shores of your chosen destination. In addition to blue bottles and jellyfish; sharks, sea snakes and other poisonous fish may share your patch of sea. Again heed local advice.
  • In some areas untreated sewage is pumped into the sea be sure to scan the resort area for signs of contamination or suspicious looking pipes protruding into the sea.
  • The shoreline line itself can be source of contamination. If dogs and other animals roam the beach it is likely that parasitic diseases may be present. Lie on a beach towel or sun bed and wear sandals or flip-flops when possible.
  • NEVER turn your back on the sea.

Scuba diving is becoming an increasingly popular sport but it does have its risks. 

  • Always check out the operator and choose the one with the best equipment and most sensible approach.
  • If you suffer from heart problems, asthma or other respiratory disease always inform you instructor.
  • Some specialist scuba diving holidays require you to under go a medical before being allowed to dive.
  • Finally always wear a life jacket when boating or canoeing being on holidays doesn’t make you float any better, unless of course you’re in the Dead Sea.

Fresh Water 

We’ve all seen Tarzan dive majestically into some idyllic lake in the middle of Africa, take on a few crocodiles and emerge unscathed on the other side. The lakes and rivers in Africa, South America and some parts of Asia however, can present significant risks to travellers. Apart from the risk of contracting diseases such as schistosomiasis, most travellers would want to avoid animals such as crocodiles, hippopotamus and a variety of poisonous snakes 

Swimming in fresh water lakes and rivers in these areas are generally not a good idea. Wait until you get back to the resorts pool or the beach. 

If you’re still not convinced consider that crocodiles frequently kill unsuspecting humans while swimming or hanging around water’s edge with hippopotamus claiming responsibility for the most human kills of any wild mammal in Africa. Furthermore contracting schistosomiasis or bilharzias can cause permanent kidney and renal problems.