Are you neglecting to shower after you go swimming? You’re not alone, about half of Americans admit they sometimes use their pool as a shower substitute. The problem is that pools don’t clean you—just the opposite. If you don’t have a shower, with soap, after spending time in the pool, you may suffer some uncomfortable side effects after swimming.

Contaminants in the Pool Water

No matter how much chlorine you pour into the pool, there’s always some level of bacteria and viruses in the water. In fact, many people raise the level of bacteria and other harmful substances in their pool by not showering before they get in. The truth is, the warm water in your pool is a great breeding ground for contaminants, many of which prefer water and are resistant to chlorine.

Cryptosporidium is just one example. It’s a parasite that causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, weight loss and more. The parasite has evolved a tough outer shell that gives it a few days of protection from chlorine, even at high concentrations. As a result, it’s the number one cause of waterborne illness in the United States.

What else might be in your pool? Urine, fecal matter, and other pathogens. The CDC recommends taking children out of the pool hourly so that they don’t relieve themselves in the pool. Still, young children don’t have much self-control. The best way to protect everyone from the pool water is to wash up with soap after leaving the pool.

Chlorine Exposure & Other Chemicals

The solution to the contaminants in your water is not to dump more chlorine into the pool. You might use this chemical every day, which makes it seem safe, but it is harsh and can have negative effects on your health. It also creates chloramines, chemicals that result from mixing chlorine with ammonia.

Leaving chlorine and other pool chemicals on your skin after you swim is a bad idea. They can dry out your skin, removing its natural protective oils., especially if you sleep with chlorine on your body. This can irritate it and leave it vulnerable to infections. If you’re itchy after you swim, this may be why. Or, it may be the result of a bacterial infection from the pool water.

Chlorine can also damage your hair, removing it’s natural oils and drying it out. This can cause your hair to break and develop split ends. Wash your hair with shampoo to remove the chlorine. Then consider adding some conditioner to help protect your hair from damage.

These days, there are a dozen other chemicals you’re expected to add to your pool to keep it in good condition. Too much or too little of these chemicals can also cause skin irritation. Too much algaecide is a common culprit of eye irritation. Water with the wrong pH can also affect the pH of your skin, which is especially harmful to those with skin conditions.

Protect Yourself From Pool Water

Proper pool hygiene is critical to protect your health. You should shower with soap both before and after you swim, even in your own backyard pool. You should also ensure that chemical levels are just right—not too low or too high, to avoid either damaging your skin or exposing yourself to bacteria.