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Can you get an STD from a swimming pool?

It’s one of the most commonly asked questions on Google during the summer months, but can you actually catch an STI from a swimming pool? To answer the question in full, we asked Your Sexual Health resident GP, Dr Rashid Bani.

The short answer is no, you can’t get an STI from a swimming pool. At least not without having sex in the swimming pool. There are two main reasons why it’s almost impossible to catch an STI from a swimming pool.

Firstly, STDs are incredibly bad at surviving outside of the body for any length of time. The majority of STIs are transmitted as bacteria or viruses that only survive whilst inside the body, on the body or in bodily fluids. When they leave the body they die almost instantly. The only time they are transmitted is through intimate sexual contact where bodily fluids are exchanged.

Secondly, all swimming pools should be treated with chlorine which is designed to kill all threatening organisms. This chlorine is not always successful at removing the most stubborn bacteria or viruses, but it will almost certainly be successful at killing off sexually transmitted infections that are not capable of surviving outside the body.

These two factors combined mean that there has never been any confirmed reports of someone catching an STD from taking a swim.

So, you can’t catch and STD from the water, but what about having sex in the pool? Is this bad?

Having sex in a swimming pool is no more risky than having sex in the bedroom when it comes to STDs. Wearing a condom will greatly reduce the risk of catching most STDs whether you’re in a swimming pool or your own bed. That said, swimming pools aren’t the best place to engage in sexual activity (or the best place to put on a condom) for a number of reasons.

Lubrication

Sex in a pool is not as sexy as it might seem on the TV. What you probably don’t realise is the water in the swimming pool is likely to remove your bodies natural lubrication. This makes pool sex a little uncomfortable to say the least.

Infection

We’re not talking about sexually transmitted infections, but general water borne infections. Swimming pools aren’t the cleanest when you consider the level of traffic they get from sweaty sun creamed up holidaymakers. Granted that swimming in the water carries a risk already, but having sex in the water may increase the risk of infection.

Irritation

The chlorine and other chemicals in the pool can cause irritation to your genitals. By having sex women are exposing more of the sensitive skin in and around the genital area to these chemicals. This can cause redness and itching that you won’t notice until after.

Are you really going to use a condom correctly?

If you’re having sex with someone for the first time you’re going to want to use a condom. If you’re in the swimming pool, where do you fit in using a condom? Do you get out of the swimming pool first? Do you sit on the edge and put it on? It’s a logistical nightmare.

So there you have it, you can’t catch an STD directly from a swimming pool, but having sex in the pool might not be the best idea.