Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of summer, and an important reminder for water safety.
National Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week, now in is 10th year, focuses on the role swimmers, lifeguards, pool owners and public health officials can take in preventing drowning, pool injuries and outbreaks of water illnesses. It’s a reminder for individuals to help protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recreational water illnesses are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, lakes, rivers or oceans. Diarrhea is the most common illness caused by germs such as norovirus. Skin, ear, respiratory, eye and wound infections also can occur from the germs. Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Chlorine and other disinfectants do not kill germs instantly. While most are killed within minutes, a germ called Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium) can live for days. Swallowing just a mouthful of water with germs can make you sick, CDC officials say.
Steps to prevent illness and injury:
- Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
- Shower before and after swimming.
- Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Don’t swallow the water you swim in.
- Parents of young children should take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes. Change diapers in the bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside where germs can rinse into the water.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury or death for children ages 1 to 4. Every day, 10 people die from drowning, and two of those 10 are children under age 15. For those who survive, more than half are hospitalized or receive advanced care for serious injuries.
Keep swimmers safe in the water by:
- Making sure everyone knows how to swim.
- Using life jackets appropriately.
- Supervising swimmers.
- Knowing CPR.
While pool chemicals kill germs and disinfect, they should be handled and stored properly. The CDC reports that preventable injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012. Nearly 2,500 were in children and teenagers, and more than a third occurred at a home rather than a community pool.
Pool owners should always:
- Read and follow directions on product labels.
- Wear safety equipment such as goggles or masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.
- Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals, and keep young children away when handling chemicals.
- Never mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.
Have a great, safe summer!