The dog days of summer are here and there is no better way to cool off than by going swimming at the local community pool, river, or lake. You probably think to protect your skin from the sun by applying sunscreen. But did you know there are other things you should do to protect your skin at the pool or river?

Swimming or even walking around a pool presents some hidden health hazards that can put you at risk of developing a skin infection. Summit Health Dermatologist Andrew Jensen explains what skin infections are commonly found at the pool, rivers, and lakes, and shares tips that can help you avoid coming home with an uninvited condition.


Tip #1: Swim in well-maintained pools and lakes, especially if you have a wound that isn’t completely healed. 

Water is filled with bacteria, parasites, and viruses that thrive in lakes, ponds, the ocean, chlorinated pools, and hot tubs. These bacterial invaders can enter your body through cuts in the skin and cause you to develop a swimming skin infection such as a swimmer’s itch or hot tub rash. Common symptoms of these skin infections include:

  • An itchy rash that looks like pimples.
  • Red or purple bumps that may form nodules or blisters.
  • A tingling, burning, or itchy feeling on the skin.
  • Swollen, red patches of skin that may be warm to the touch or filled with pus. If you develop these symptoms or have a fever, see a health care provider right away.


Tip #2: Protect your feet by wearing footwear on the pool deck and drying them off after a swim. 

“Most people wear flip-flops to avoid athlete’s foot infections in gym showers, saunas, and locker rooms,” explains Dr. Jensen. “The athlete’s foot fungus is known to thrive in the perimeter of the pool area, too.”

Fungus loves to grow in moist environments. Having dry feet can help prevent infection.


Tip #3: Have plenty of clean towels on hand. 

When it’s time to head home from a day at the pool, kids often grab a damp towel to dry off. But this is a definite hygiene “no-no,” says Dr. Jensen. Used, wet towels are the perfect environment for viruses and bacterial infections. Make sure you and your kids take a fresh towel when you come out of the water.


Tip#4: Follow good hygiene to reduce your chances of getting a staph infection. 

Bacterial skin infections, parasites, and fungi can all cause skin rashes and infections at the pool. “Staph infections can also spread from person to person and through objects,” warns Dr. Jensen. Remember these tips:

  •       Wash your hands thoroughly.
  •       Always wear shoes.
  •       Keep open wounds covered.
  •       Shower after going in the pool, hot tub, sauna, lake, or ocean.
  •       Avoid sharing personal items, including razors, towels, and shoes.


Tip #5. If you do develop an infection, make an appointment with a physician. Do not wait to get medical attention.

Most summer skin infections can be easily treated. Staph infections, however, can become serious if they are not identified in the early stages. Some common treatments for bacterial infections include:

  • Your health care provider may perform a skin culture test to identify the type of staph bacteria that is causing your infection and what medication will work best for you.
  • IV antibiotics or medications. Used for serious staph infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
  • Wound drainage. If there is pus in your infection your provider may make an incision into the sore to drain the fluid and thoroughly clean the area.


Summit Health can help. 

We hope you have a fun  and safe — summer! If you or your family members show any signs of a skin infection, visit your primary care physician or dermatologist. You can also walk into your local Summit Health urgent care and see a provider who can help right away.