With the cold weather behind us and summer quickly approaching, everyone is ready to pack up that beach bag, lather on the sunscreen, and head to their favorite spot to relax - the water! Swimming is one of the most popular sport activities in the United States, not only offering refreshing fun but a variety of healthy benefits. From physical to mental benefits, swimming is a good choice all around. Though, in between the games of Marco-Polo and lounging the day away on your favorite raft, few people recognize that pools and other recreational water venues are also places where germs can spread and injuries can happen. Having fun while you swim means knowing how to prevent recreational water illnesses, and we have the perfect tips for you to stay healthy, safe, and happy in the water!
According to the Center for Disease Control, Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs/spas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and trigger indoor air quality problems. In addition to illnesses, injuries — such as drowning and slips, trips, and falls — can occur in or around the water. It is important to remember that contrary to popular belief, chlorine and other disinfectants do NOT kill germs instantly. In fact, once germs enter the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them.
With the number of recreational water injuries on the rise, swimmers need to take an active role in protecting themselves and their fellow swimmers and prevent the spread of germs. Below are simple tips to help protect yourself and those around you.
Parents of young children should take a few extra steps..
- Shower with soap before swimming
- Take a bathroom break every 60 minutes
- Wash your hands after using the toilet and/or changing diapers
- Don't swallow the water you swim in
Equally dangerous to germs, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1-4. Every day, 10 people die from drowning; 2 of those 10 are children under the age of 15 years. Of drowning victims who survive and are treated in emergency departments, more than half are hospitalized or transferred for further care. These individuals often experience brain damage, which can cause memory problems, learning disabilities, or permanent loss of basic functioning (or permanent vegetative state). To prevent drowning:
- Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes
- Check diapers every 30 minutes
- Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper changing area and NOT poolside where germs can travel into the water
- Everyone (adults and children) should know how to swim
- Caregivers should know CPR
- All boaters and weaker swimmers should wear life jackets
- Backyard swimming pools should be separated from the house and yard by a fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate.