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Enjoy the Water but Be Safe

May 18 - 24, 2009 is Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week.  The warmer weather will certainly be followed by many trips to the pool or beach.  So this is a very good time to consider healthy swimming behaviors that include ways to prevent recreational water illnesses and injuries.  These illnesses are spread by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, spas, hot tubs, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.  In addition, injuries at aquatic facilities can occur in or out of the water.

Recreational water illnesses are caused by germs like cryptosporidium, giardia, E.coli, and shigella and are spread by swallowing water that has been contaminated by fecal material.  Pool water is shared with everyone in the pool.  If someone with diarrhea contaminates the water, swallowing the water can make you sick.  The best way to prevent water illness is to keep the germs out of the pool in the first place.  Everyone can help by adopting these healthy behaviors:

  • Please don't swim if you have diarrhea.  This is especially important for children in diapers.
  • Please don't swallow pool water and try to avoid getting water in your mouth. 
  • Please practice good hygiene because germs on your body end up in the water.  Shower before swimming and wash your hands after toileting or changing diapers.
  • Please take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. 
  • Please change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside.
  • Please wash your children thoroughly (especially their bottoms) with soap and water before they go swimming. 
  • Please teach your children it is not acceptable to "pee in the pool".

While chlorine is effective in killing germs that cause recreational water illness, it does take time to work.  Some germs like crypto are resistant to chlorine and can live in pools for days and even the best maintained pools can spread illness. 

Pool chemicals can cause injury if they are not handled properly.  This applies to both residential and public pool operators.  This type of injury leads to thousands of emergency room visits every year.  Pool chemicals should always be kept in a secure place away from children and animals.  Pool operators should frequently review the manufacturer's directions and follow them accordingly.  Appropriate protective gear should always be worn when using pool chemicals.  Chlorine products should never be mixed with each other, acid, or other substances.

Memorial Day is usually the kickoff for a fun-filled, active summer.  You can certainly enjoy the water while following the above common sense guidelines.  Visit the following website for more information on healthy swimming:  http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming

Have a healthy, happy summer!

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