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Swim safety tips: Preventing water-borne illnesses and injuries

It's summer! Besides putting on sunscreen, it’s important to know preventative measures related to water-borne illnesses and injuries when we swim.

Beginning with Memorial Day weekend, many of us will head to the shore or a local pool to stay cool throughout the summer. Besides putting on sunscreen, it's important to know preventative measures related to water-borne illnesses and injuries when we swim.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned the public about the risk of getting norovirus by water. Unfortunately, there was a norovirus outbreak in Oregon that sickened 70 people in July 2014.  Even more concerning, was that half of these people were between 4 to 10-years-old. It was determined that this outbreak occurred when an infected swimmer had diarrhea or vomited in a lake that then was transmitted to others.

Although alarming, don't let this incident deter you and your family from summer fun.  A little background knowledge will go a long way in protecting your family.

So with this in mind, these tips can help keep all of us safe this summer:

  1. Keep pee, poop, sweat and dirt, out of the water!

    • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
    • Shower before you get in the water.
    • Don't pee or poop in the water.
    • Don't swallow the pool or lake water.
    • In pools, remember that chlorine does not keep all germs away and needs time to work. Furthermore, if chlorine is mixed with pee and sweat, more chlorine in the pool is being used on these fluids and less is available to kill the germs. 

  1. Every hour: Everyone out!

    • Take kids on bathroom breaks.
    • Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area-not poolside-to keep germs away from the pool. Swim diapers and swim pants are not a substitute for changing and cannot protect against leakage of diarrhea into pools. 
    • Reapply sunscreen.

  1. A free downloadable brochure with more tips is available at the CDC's Healthy Swimming site.

Illnesses are not the only risks concerning water safety. Sadly, drowning is the leading cause of injury related death among children ages 1 to 4.  To prevent this, we always want to supervise any children in and around open bodies of water. Also, we want to teach children to swim with an adult and even older, more experienced swimmers should swim with a partner.

Education about the dangers of drain entanglement must be discussed. We must remind kids to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.  They could become trapped with dire consequences.

If you own an in-ground pool, make sure it has a four-sided fence at least 4 feet high and a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent children form wandering in unsupervised.  If you own an inflatable pool, remember to empty it immediately after use and store it upside down.  This will prevent small children from falling in or being trapped. These are just a few basic tips to swim by.  More great swimming safety tips can be found at Safe Kids Worldwide.

In closing, summer is a great time to be outside with your loved ones. Swimming in the ocean, pools, or lakes create memories that can last a lifetime. However, we want to keep safe by following the tips above so that we can continue to make memories all summer long.

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