Warmer temperatures have arrived, and with them, so has Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. This yearly observance is celebrated the week before Memorial Day, as Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer and when most pools open up for the season.
Swimming is fun and healthy, and we want it to stay that way. And so before hitting the pool or lake, keep in mind some simple tips to ensure your time in the water is a safe one.
Swimming and Recreational Water Illnesses
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, water playgrounds, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Diarrhea is the most common RWI, and it is often caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), norovirus and E.coli.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Crypto is the leading cause of most outbreaks linked to treated pools and water playgrounds. While most germs are killed within minutes by chlorine, Crypto is particularly hard to control because the germ is not. Crypto can survive in properly chlorinated water for more than seven days. Children are most at risk for RWIs.
Tips for Healthy Swimming
The pool, hot tub, or water playground is the last place someone sick with diarrhea should be. Just one diarrheal incident in the water can release millions of germs. If someone swallows a mouthful of water, it can cause diarrhea lasting up to three weeks. Follow these tips, as doing so will go a long way in protecting everyone in the water this summer.
- Don’t swim or let your kids swim when sick with diarrhea
- Don’t swallow the water
- Check out the latest inspection score
- Take kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes
- Check diapers every 30-60 minutes and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area. DO NOT change diapers near the water or swimming area.
- Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just one minute helps rid of most stuff that might be on a swimmer’s body.
- If at a public pool or the beach, check for a lifeguard on duty. If no lifeguard is on duty, check to see where any safety equipment, such as a rescue ring or pole, is located.
Steps making the most out of your swimming experience aren’t taken just in the water, but outside of it as well. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect you and your family.
- Shade. Your best bet to reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer is by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun.
- Sunscreen. Put on a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard to reach places like your back. Sunscreen wears off, so be sure to put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
- Clothing. When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants for protection against UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection
- Hat. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck.
- Sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection.
When we’re enjoying time at the pool or the beach, injuries aren’t always the first thing on our minds. Yet, drownings are a leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-14. Three children die every day as a result of drowning. In fact, drowning kills more children ages 1-4 than anything else except birth defects. Parents can follow these tips to help make sure their loved one’s time in the water is always a fun time.
- Make life jackets a must
- Make sure kids are closely supervised at all times
- Know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through water) and CPR
- For backyard pools, install a four-side isolation fence, with self-closing and self-latching gates.
Swimming and time in the water are activities that millions of Americans will take part in this summer. This is a time that is supposed to be fun, and we encourage all to do their part to keep it that way by remembering these safe and healthy swimming tips anytime you’re about to hit the water.