Is it safe to go swimming in public pools if you have CLL?

Is it safe to go swimming in public pools if you have CLL?

Several members have asked this question over the years and recently I was sorely tempted on seeing a sparkling blue public swimming pool with very few enjoying it. It has also been quite hot here recently, further adding to the temptation of having a cooling swim. However, having just read this article by Simon Reid, Associate Professor or Communicable Disease Control, The University of Queensland and Una Ryan, Professor in Biochemistry, Murdoch University, I think I'll continue to forgo that particular pleasure until my immune system is less compromised:

If you are in the early stages of CLL and/or your immune system is still fairly good, then perhaps you'll be able to enjoy a refreshing swim. While the above article is not written for immune compromised people in mind, it does include many helpful hints that if followed, should make your dip less dangerous to your health.


15 Replies

  • I know some of us have very low neutrophils but I still think we've gotta live otherwise what's the point? I would risk that dip and enjoy the sparkling pool on a scorching day.

  • Scary reading. Swimming or surfing in the ocean is risky too. Life is full of risks. Best to be aware and then decide.

  • It's the "gotta live" that's the point. There's no single answer that suits all of us. If you have good neutrophil and immunogobulin counts or even lowish ones but find that you don't get infections all that often and recover easily, then you'll probably be fine. If you get ill easily and recovery is lengthy and are limited in what antibiotics you can take, or if you are under treatment that is known to be immunosuppressant (remembering that significant suppression can last a year or more after FCR for example), then perhaps a paddle (provided you have no open cuts, sores) would be preferable.

    My specialist has OK'd sea swimming for me - provided I keep my distance from others, but my immunity is uncharacteristically low for someone on W&W.

    I found the above article very informative in that it clearly states the risks of sharing a pool with others, so at least read it before making your own decision. It might be worth while making acquaintance with whoever looks after your local pool, so that you can be better informed with regard to pool incidences that could put you at increased risk - assuming that they are reported...


  • Hi Neil,

    Glad your doc approved sea swimming for you as Australia has some of the most beautiful water on the planet! I am wondering if this means that a pool that is salt water would be a better choice for CLL patients? Many people are switching over to salt water pools because of the absence of chemicals.


  • Australians are indeed blessed with a beautiful long coastline, with an abundance of clean swimming beaches.

    I'm certain that it's the risk of exposure to pathogens that is behind my specialist's recommendation to only swim in sea water, because the chemical used to disinfect fresh and salt water pools is the same - chlorine, or more specifically, hypochlorous acid HOCl, which is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen (from the pool water) plus chlorine, (from table salt; sodium chloride):


  • Thanks Neil,

    Very interesting article on salt water pool chemistry. This is my first time reading anything about it and I found it fascinating. I think I am leaning toward the salt water pool because of the additional elements that are present which sound like they could be beneficial. I also like the sound of soft water and not running a pool pump as long which is a waste of energy. Many thanks this article was the perfect post and really answered my question perfectly.



  • The hot humid environment of the indoor heated pool, a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of infections. A strong smell of chloramines, which is caused by the reaction of chlorine with the nitrogen in sweat and urine. Having to rely on others to shower before using the pool and their kids to not have an accidental release......

    I would cross the road if I saw someone coughing and sneezing in front of me. For me, a public swimming pool is somewhere to be avoided although I could be tempted to a paddle in the sea on a warm summers day.

  • My immune system is holding its own at the moment but on the rare occasion that I do use a public swimming pool I end up with a cold or stomach bug - I have reluctantly decided to avoid them. 😒

  • Notwithstanding all the above, I enjoy the pools in Cuba on a regular basis and have had no problems whatsoever. I do avoid taking uncovered drinks into the pool which many do not and end up suffering the inevitable. However, I do avoid our city pool mainly due to bacteria laden tiles on the deck and especially in the changing rooms. As Aussie Neil points out, it is a "gotta live" issue for me and I choose freedom over fear but with some caution over recklessness.

  • Thanks for posting I keep forgetting to ask my doc about this. I agree you gotta live and if you are taking a risk good to know. I swim in the ocean and in public pools with my kids (I have low neuts and Igs like many of you) but I don't do public hot tubs!

    I have also been meaning to ask about scuba diving. Not thinking about germ taints but more if nitrogen in the blood etc. is ill advised since it's unavoidable with diving. If anyone has info, please post!

  • No info on nitrogen in the blood, only the observation that depending on the degree that CLL is affecting your thinking (e.g. due to fatigue, not feeling 100%), you would be wise to be extra cautious and have a trusted diving buddy keeping a particular eye on you. You may be more susceptible to nitrogen narcosis for example, but I really don't know - I've never been diving.

    And before anyone asks about hyperbaric chamber treatment for CLL, there's this warning from the FDA on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT):


  • Any idea how safe (or dangerous) taking part in a mud run is. Particularly, if it involves wading through or even being submerged in muddy water. I expect that you can never be too cautious and the sensible thing would be to stick to normal road/park runs.

  • I'd say it depends on the quality of the mud! Since I somehow doubt that the mud would have been sterilised and you are unlikely to be the first through the mud, surely you'd be exposing yourself to all the bugs already in the mud, in the water used to make it muddy, plus all the bugs discarded into the mud from other participants both from the participants themselves and what they've collected over the course earlier?

    There are some particularly nasty soil borne pathogens around, plus I expect you'd be at greater risk of cuts and scrapes on the course and thus at risk of exposing yourself to them...


  • Thanks for all your thorough work on this Neil.

    I'm at an advanced stage of CLL and have been swimming a few times in the sea In Italy and Croatia and not had any problems. I just tried to keep my mouth shut for 10 minutes, which is tough for a bloke like me.

  • I could never give up swimming and have found a few precautions lesson the risks. I always wear goggles - a lot of bugs are absorbed through the soft tissue of the eyes. I wear flip flops in the shower and even down the ladder into the water and then take them off to prevent athletes foot or verucas. Lastly I use a mouthwash immediately after swimming to prevent mouth ulcers. If I pick up a stomach bug I take a double whiskey or brandy - any strong alcohol when I feel something grumbling in the couple of hours after swimming and it always kills it. Happy splashing!

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