The Memorial Day holiday is traditionally the kick off to the summer season where people start to enjoy the outdoors in the sun and the water. As many will be heading towards the water for fun and recreation, State health officials urge Hoosiers to do so safely. Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week is May 20 to 26 and aims to raise awareness that each year, thousands of Americans get sick from germs in waterways or injured in places they swim. The goal of RWII Prevention Week is to raise awareness about healthy and safe swimming.
“Everyone can have plenty of safe fun in the water this summer if they take some small steps while they are enjoying aquatic activities,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Whether it’s a public or private pool, a lake, water park, reservoir or other body of water, Hoosiers need to practice safe habits and personal hygiene in the water. Waterborne-illnesses are a risk, as well as accidental drowning and injuries.”
In the latest State mortality report from 2010, there were 62 deaths in Indiana due to accidental drowning or submersion. Some of these deaths could have been prevented. When swimming, be sure to have a flotation safety device, like a life preserver or a vest, nearby and always obey swimming rules at the pool, lake or other body of water. Do not swim where prohibited and never swim alone.
State health officials say the best way to prevent recreational water illnesses from pools is to keep germs out. That can be accomplished by following these six healthy swimming steps:
Don’t swim when you have diarrhea
Don’t swallow pool water
Practice good hygiene—shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often
Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside
Wash children thoroughly with soap and water before they swim
If you have a private pool, always check the chlorine and pH levels before getting into the water. Proper chlorine (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power. Most superstores, hardware stores and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips for testing the chlorine.
Health officials also caution Hoosiers of the possible presence of blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, at many of Indiana’s reservoirs, lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams where the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen from fertilizers.
Even though they may not be visible in water, many things that can harm you may still be present, and anyone in Indiana’s waters should take some basic precautions, including:
· Avoid water-related activities when temperatures are high and water levels are low
· Avoid coming in contact with visible algae while swimming, jet skiing or tubing
· Avoid swallowing or breathing in any water while swimming
· Hold your nose shut, use nose clips or keep your head above water
· Avoid digging in, or stirring up the sediment in shallow areas
· Don't let your pet drink or swim in water with visible algae
· If your pet does swim, be sure to properly bathe your pet afterwards and
· Always supervise children playing in or around water, as they are more likely to swallow water
Anyone who gets injured or who may be experiencing symptoms related to exposure to recreational waters, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle weakness or difficulty breathing, should contact their health care provider.
For more information on recreational water illnesses, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s Healthy Swimming website at www.in.gov/isdh/25828.htm. Information on public swimming pools and spas may be found at www.pools.isdh.in.gov. For more information on blue-green algae, visit Indiana’s Blue-Green Algae website at www.algae.IN.gov.
As we kick off Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention invites you to join a Twitter chat on healthy and safe swimming on Wednesday, May 22 from 2 to 3 p.m. ET. To participate, follow @CDC_NCEZID on Twitter and use the hashtag #swimsafe during the chat to view and respond to tweets. Remember to like Indiana State Department of Health on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @StateHealthIN.