The Horrifying Secrets Water Parks Don’t Want You to Know

Whether you were a coastal kid or an inner city child, summertime was all about fun in the sun. And if you were really lucky, a few trips to your local water park were sprinkled into your summer schedule, too.

Now that you’re an adult, though, taking a trip to a water park might not warrant the same kind of excitement. Those water park days you once longed for might be a thing of the past — and for good reason. Turns out, there’s some pretty horrifying stuff that goes down. Buyer beware.

1. They’re crawling with bacteria (such as foot fungus)

barefoot man running through water

You can leave a water park with some serious foot fungus. | iStock.com

Remember when you lived in a college dorm and wearing shower shoes was an absolute must? Yeah, well, water parks are kind of like that — but even worse. Think of all the people who lived in your dorm, and now multiply that number by however many families visit water parks each year. You’re looking at a wide range of potentially infected folks.

Tip: Keep water shoes on hand

people wearing sandals

Don’t forget your water shoes if you’re headed to the water park. | Teva

Basically, water parks are a breeding ground for all things bacteria, including skin infections, athlete’s foot, and beyond. Still skeptical? Just take a look at some of the reviews on TripAdvisor, and you’ll probably have a change of heart. For your best chance at escaping without a raging case of athlete’s foot, or something of the like, be sure to bring a pair of water shoes with you.

2. Wave pools can be far more dangerous than you think

lifeguard standing at pool

Don’t count on the lifeguard to be 100% focused on your child. | iStock.com

Any good water park is home to a few staples: water slides, lazy rivers, and, of course, an action-packed wave pool. But be careful because they can actually be way more dangerous than the average swimming hole.

Just look at New Jersey’s Action Park, for example. According to Thrillist, the park’s wave pool, dubbed the “Grave Pool,” was the site of three deaths from 1982 to 1987. Although the pool remains open today, it has undergone a serious remodel. Nevertheless, this is just one example to keep in mind when you’re dipping your toes into one of these colossal pools.

Tip: Don’t take your eyes off your child

girl in inner tube in pool

Have a kid who likes to swim? Don’t take your eyes off them ever. | iStock.com/Anna_Om

While any caring parent knows the importance of keeping an eye on their child, some of these mega pools on steroids often require folks to be extra cautious. Speaking of Action Park’s wave pool, Thrillist said, “It was so intense that there were anywhere from 12 to 20 lifeguards on duty at all times. While most lifeguards can expect to make two to three saves in a weekend, the lifeguards at Grave Pool would make around 30.” So, just remember, don’t leave it to the lifeguards to look out for your child, as they’re responsible for the entire place.

3. Waterborne diseases

Woman relaxing in a pool

A woman relaxes in a pool. | iStock.com/NinaMalyna

You run the risk of getting sick at any public pool, but we’d be remiss not to mention the possibility of it happening at a water park. Although chlorine packs a powerful punch (more on that in a minute), it’s sometimes no match for what might be lurking under the surface. E. coli and giardia, for instance, might be ready and waiting to prey on you, giving “cesspool” a whole new meaning.

Tip: Check with the CDC for outbreaks

woman in bed with stomach ache

To avoid getting sick, be sure to check the CDC for information on outbreaks. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

When E. coli and giardia strike, diarrhea, vomiting, and the like aren’t far behind, which is bad news for anyone who’s been swimming in a potentially infected body of water. If there is reason to worry, though, at least there’s a way you can stay informed.

Before heading out to a water park — or any swimming pool, pond, lake, or river for that matter — be sure to check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Staying up to date on outbreaks in your area is easy, and avoiding the water park during these times could save you a house full of sick kids.

4. Too much chlorine can be a bad thing

Woman scratching her arm

You could be left itching up a storm after your trip to a water park. | iStock.com/Tharakorn

Yes, chlorine will help stave off bacteria like the ones we just mentioned. But too much of a good thing, in some cases, could have the opposite of your desired effect. Although chlorine is 100% necessary at water parks, improper management of the stuff could lead to chlorine poisoning. In fact, those who swim in over-chlorinated pools run the risk of developing symptoms, such as skin irritation, severe itchiness, and discomfort, CareWell Urgent Care says.

Tip: Rinse after swimming

back of woman in shower

Showering after a water park visit is essential. | iStock.com/Anna Omelchenko

Although it’s pretty unlikely you will get chlorine poisoning, it’s still important to thoroughly wash off after leaving the water park. Also, make sure you’re going to a reputable place that knows what it’s doing. Ever see those budget-looking water parks on the side of the road that look far from safe or sanitary? Yeah, you’ll want to steer clear of those. As long as you’re visiting a well-known place, you’re probably good to go on the chlorine issue.

5. The drains are disgusting

Man cleaning pool with a dog

Pool drains can collect lots of disgusting things. | iStock.com

Every pool has a drain, which means there’s a pretty good chance lots of crap can get caught down there. And if you thought Band-Aids in pools were your worst nightmare, think again. According to one employee who dished the dirty details on Reddit, water park pool drains can be home to dead mice, condoms, and dirty swim diapers. Yuck.

Tip: Steer clear of the drains

person swimming

When in doubt, stick to the surface of the water. | iStock.com

There’s not much else you can do for this one besides staying far, far away from those nasty little suckers. If you absolutely have your heart set on dipping into a water park pool, just make sure there’s not anything too obscene down there glaring you in the face. And if you do notice something, tell an employee. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll do anything about it, but you never know. If that still doesn’t do the trick, you can always take to the internet and write a scathing review.

6. There’s poop in the pools

scene from "Adventureland"

Even staff from Adventureland would be repulsed. | Miramax

Yes, it’s true. We hate to burst your water balloon here, but even the CDC says fecal contamination in pools is a thing. And it actually makes pretty good sense. Just think about it. Most of us — or at least those of us who aren’t vigorously scrubbing our backsides and using a bidet every hour on the hour — are left with some particles floating around down there. So, multiply that by all the rear ends in the pool, and yeah, it’s absolutely disgusting.

Tip: Rinse before entering

swimming pool

You really should rinse before entering any public pool. | iStock.com

No, you can’t control whether other people will shower beforehand, but you can hope your good deed just might start a chain reaction of good behavior. In fact, it’s actually suggested at most public pool areas that visitors shower prior to entering. That way, all that nasty bacteria, sweat, body fluids, and anything else can stay behind, allowing you to dive in with a decreased chance you’ll bring it all with you.

7. Swim diapers aren’t spill-proof

diaper bag stuffed with supplies to take care of a baby

Unfortunately, a swim diaper is sometimes no match for babies. | iStock.com

On the note of poop in the water, swim diapers aren’t helping the cause for clean water either. In fact, it’s almost to be expected these little suckers don’t create a perfect seal 100% of the time. And what’s worse than poopy pants? Well, not much, but you see where we’re going with this.

Tip: Change your baby’s diaper often

baby pulling toilet paper

Potty-trained kids are just the best. | iStock.com/markcarper

Short of simply not going in the pool, the best way you can help ease this problem is by making sure your own kid has a clean, fresh diaper on at all times. And if your little one isn’t totally potty-trained yet, please do everyone a favor and make him or her wear a swim diaper just in case. Even if they throw a fit, you’ll be much happier you made them wear one — albeit against their will — when you discover they’re really not ready to go sans diaper after all.

8. The most prevalent germ at the pool is chlorine-tolerant

man sitting on bed, clutching his stomach

Swallow too much water, and you could end up with diarrhea for weeks. | iStock.com

With the ability to survive days in chlorine-treated water, cryptosporidium, or crypto for short, is any park-goer’s worst nightmare. According to the CDC, “Crypto is one of the most common causes of recreational water illness (disease caused by germs spread through pool water) in the United States and can cause prolonged diarrhea (for one to two weeks).” It’s found in the fecal matter of a person who has it, so swallowing even the tiniest amount of water could potentially make you sick.

Basically, going to a water park is kind of like sleeping around. You might catch something; you might not. The only way to stay 100% safe is by abstaining. But hey, where’s the fun in that?