Should You Really Pee in the Swimming Pool?

Is swimming in public pools safe?
Should You Really Pee in the Swimming Pool?

To pee or not to pee? That is the question adults and children ask themselves every summer.

Each summer, some swimmers (and not just kids!) face a perplexing — and some would say mildly gross — problem when heading out to public swimming pools. That is, what should you do when you need to pee? If you go to a public pool, do you run the risk of swimming in other people’s pee? And if so, is this safe? 

Urologist Petar Bajic, MD, weighs in on whether you should just go, or find yourself a proper restroom. Learn the scientific pros and cons to consider in favor of holding it – or not. And just how safe is it to swim in public pools if other people have peed in them? 

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To pee or not to pee?

If you swim, you’ve probably at some point considered whether or not to just pee in the pool.

After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go! How you decide is a matter between you and your conscience and your bladder. Here are some facts to guide you.

Urine is 95% water. The other 5% includes byproducts of your digested food and drink, things like:

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  • Urea, a compound produced in the liver that serves as a vehicle for disposing of excess ammonia and nitrogen. 
  • Uric acid, which is produced when your body digests certain foods and liquids like beer. It’s an antioxidant that also helps repair damaged cells. 
  • Electrolytes like sodium, chloride, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Microscopic debris such as dead blood cells, and (depending on your lifestyle), chemical traces of tobacco, drugs, vitamins and other substances that are filtered out of your blood by your kidneys. 

Would it “kill you” to hold it?

Absolutely not. 

Holding your pee for a few minutes while you get out of the pool and head to the loo might be uncomfortable, but it’s not dangerous. 

But pee isn’t generally dangerous either. None of the substances mentioned above in normal urine are present in large enough amounts to be dangerous. So if you decide to go in the pool, or you swim in the diluted urine of someone else, it’s not harmful. 

Urine isn’t sterile, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. Similar to the surface of the skin and other areas of the body, your bladder contains a mix of healthy bacteria called the microbiome. Urine from the bladder can also pick up bacteria from your urethra or your genitals on the way out. These bacteria, just like those that live on the skin or in the mouth, are generally not considered harmful, and most swimming pools are treated with chlorine and other chemicals to reduce the risk of passing any diseases to others. 

So the answer to the age-old question of whether you should pee in the pool or not? 

It’s largely about following the golden rule: Do unto others as you would like done to you. 

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