As Hoosiers statewide begin spending time in swimming pools, lakes and rivers this summer, state health officials would like everyone to keep safety in mind. This week, May 19-25, is Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week, a time to learn a few useful tips for preventing illness and injury before indulging in summer water fun.
Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that thousands of Americans get sick from germs in waterways or were injured while they swam. This year’s RWII Prevention Week theme, “Healthy and Safe Swimming: We’re in It Together,” emphasizes that everybody plays a role in preventing water injuries and illnesses.
“Not a single person in Indiana should die from drowning,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “It’s a preventable tragedy. This summer, let’s look out for one another while enjoying the water. Let’s keep a close eye on the kids and make sure that pools are enclosed when possible and kids know not to get in the water unless an adult is present.”
In the latest state mortality report (2011), there were 81 deaths in Indiana due to accidental drowning or submersion. Health officials recommend that when swimming:
· Be sure to have a flotation safety device, like a life preserver or a vest, nearby;
· Always obey swimming rules at the pool, lake or other body of water;
· Don’t swim where prohibited and never swim alone;
Recreational water illnesses are spread by ingesting, inhaling or having skin contact with contaminated water. Although contaminated water can cause serious problems such as skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections, the most commonly reported illness is diarrhea.
Help prevent the spread of water illnesses by following the tips below:
· Don’t swim when you have diarrhea;
· Don’t swallow pool water;
· Practice good hygiene – shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers;
· Take your kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers often;
· Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside;
· Wash children thoroughly with soap and water before they swim;
Contact a healthcare provider if you begin experiencing symptoms that may be related to water play, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle weakness or difficulty breathing.
Injuries can be caused by mishandling pool chemicals or too much sun exposure Injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012, according to a study released Thursday by the CDC.
Nearly half of these preventable injuries were in children and teenagers and more than a third occurred at a home. Pool chemical injuries were most common during the summer swim season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and almost half occurred on weekends.
If you have a private pool, always check the chlorine and pH levels before getting into the water. Proper chlorine (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power. Most superstores, hardware stores and pool-supply stores sell kits for testing the chlorine in pools.
Health officials also caution Hoosiers of the possible presence of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, at many of Indiana’s reservoirs, lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams where the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen from fertilizers. Algae appear as green, brown or white “mats” of scum floating on the surface. People and pets should avoid contact with algae and wash thoroughly after any contact.