(Wise, VA) - With temperatures warming up many of us are making plans for swimming in pools, fresh waters, the ocean, and at water parks, hot tubs and spas.
“These activities are enjoyable but it’s important to know the risks,” said Eleanor Cantrell, M.D., director, Lenowisco Health District. “People may become ill or hospitalized or even die from injury or drowning.”
May is National Water Safety Month, and includes the 13th annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, May 22 to 28. This week’s theme is “Diarrhea and Swimming Don’t Mix.” The Lenowisco Health District provides tips to avoid illnesses, injuries and drownings.
Tips to protect yourself, your loved ones and pets:
- Anyone with vomiting or diarrhea should not go into the pool/water;
- Shower before and after swimming;
- Don’t swallow water from pools, hot tubs, spas, lakes, rivers, ponds or the ocean;
- Wash infants and toddlers well – especially the diaper areas – before going in the pool;
- Check diapers hourly; use the bathroom or diaper changing area, NOT at poolside or on the beach;
- Wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers; and
- Rinse yourself and pets immediately if you contact water with an algal bloom.
Tips to prevent drowning:
- Be sure everyone knows how to swim;
- Never leave your child unsupervised, even for a second;
- Don’t read, eat or use the phone while watching children, even if they know how to swim;
- Don’t rely on life guards to do your job;
- Don’t swim alone; use the “buddy system;”
- Use life jackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs);
- Don’t rely on water wings, inflatable items or foam noodles;
- Enclose a pool with a fence at least five feet high;
- Make sure gates close and latch on their own; keep them locked when not using the pool;
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR);
- Avoid consuming alcohol when enjoying recreational waters.
To avoid injuries and burns from pool chemicals:
- Read the label; follow directions and measurements;
- Store chemicals in separate storage areas with separate air handling systems;
- Wear safety equipment such as goggles and gloves, as directed;
- Keep chemical storage areas below 95 degrees, or by manufacturer’s instructions;
- Don’t store chemicals near flammable materials like gasoline, herbicides, paint or oily rags;
- Cover and opened containers with waterproof seals;
- Add chemicals only as directed by label and when no one is in the water;
- Wash hands after working with pool chemicals.
“Take these precautions, and enjoy your summer water activities safely,” said Dr. Cantrell.
Recreational water illnesses are spread by contact with contaminated or unsafe water that contains unhealthy bacteria or germs. If a person swallows contaminated water, or gets it up the nose, in the eyes or simply on the skin or eyes it can cause serious problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and skin, ear and eye infections.
The leading cause of disease outbreaks in swimming pools is Cryptosporidium bacteria, which chlorine and other disinfectants do not kill instantly, so Cryptosporidium can live for up to a week in a properly chlorinated and disinfected pool.
Naegleria fowleri (“brain-eating amoeba”) lives in warm water lakes, rivers and hot springs around the world. If Naegleria goes forcefully up the nose, it can cause a rare infection of the brain. (Swallowing Naegleria does not cause such an infection.)
Warm bodies of water may also have harmful algal blooms that look like foam, scum or even different colored mats on the water’s surface. These blooms are made up of algae, tiny plants that may produce toxins that can cause harmful illnesses in people and pets.
For more information contact the Lenowisco Health District at 276-328-8000 or visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/LHD/lenowisco/index/htm.