Summer is here – and swimming is finally in season! But recreational water can be more than a cool way to exercise and escape the heat. It also can be the source for accidental drowning or water borne illness.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children 1-4 years old. And every day, two children under the age of 14 years, dies from drowning.
Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are caused by swallowing water, breathing mist or having contact with water contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Norovirus, Crypto or other germs in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, interactive fountains, lakes and rivers.
RWIs include a variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. While anyone can get sick, RWIs pose the greatest risk to young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with unhealthy immune systems.
Chlorine does not kill germs instantly, and once germs are in the pool, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to days to kill them. Crypto – which can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools – is now the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrheal illness.
Drowning is preventable, so make sure everyone knows how to swim, older children and adults know CPR, and water access is prevented by fencing, covers, locks and door alarms. Additionally, always make sure to provide attentive supervision close to swimmers and avoid alcohol or drugs when swimming or watching swimmers.
Likewise, to prevent the spread of RWIs, don’t swim when you have diarrhea, don’t swallow pool water – and avoid getting it in your mouth, shower with soap before swimming, and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Parents of young children also need to wash their children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming, check diapers every 30-60 minutes and change them when needed in a bathroom or diaper changing area, and take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
With a few easy steps, you and your loved ones can prevent drowning and RWIs – and enjoy healthy and safe swimming all summer long.
Special thanks to Columbus Public health for this informative guest post and look forward to another great installment next month!
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