Healthy Summer Swimming

Howard Baker, RN BSN
Howard Baker, RN BSN

Memorial Day typically marks the start of summer vacations as many of us flock to the water’s edge. Swimming has many health benefits which makes it one of the most popular sports in the United States. This time of year always takes me back to when I was a child and would go swimming with my grandfather. The sounds of laughter and conversations around the pool and lake always take me back to a time that was seemingly without danger or concern. As a child it seemed to me mom was more concerned with the unknown—unseen dangers such as snakes, sharks, diving, and drowning. I am sure my mom had many concerns I never knew about or have blocked from my memory. WOW, how the years change us!

It seems all too often the sounds of playful splashes and laughter are shadowed by the news of a child drowning. Child safety takes on a whole new meaning when they are near or playing in water.

To help keep your children safe in and near the water here are a few simple safety tips:
• Teach your child to swim. It is important to stress swimming lessons will not drown-proof your child. Even good swimmers can drown.

• Never leave children unsupervised near water.

• Be a “Designated Watcher” during social gatherings it is a good idea for adults to take turns being the “designated watcher” who is free from distractions such as telephones, televisions, books or conversations that could distract you even for a second.

• Remove toys from the water. Children can fall into the water trying to retrieve them.

• Beware of drains. Do not allow children to play near or sit on pool drains. Body parts and hair may become entrapped by strong suction.

• Install alarms. If your home serves as part of your pool’s enclosure, protect doors leading into the pool area with an alarm.

These simple safety tips are not fail proof and even under the most diligent adult supervision accidents can and do happen.

While drowning is the most serious of water injuries, there are other dangers that can cause significant illnesses. A new CDC study found that swimmers frequently bring poop into the water. Poop may contain germs which can be swallowed by others in the water and make them sick. Many people believe that chlorine and other disinfectants kill germs instantly, this is simply not true. Once germs are in the pool, it can take minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. These germs can cause gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported water related illness is diarrhea caused by the germs Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli. Swallowing just a little water containing these germs can make you sick (CDC).

So, how do we keep ourselves and others safe from germs while swimming? Remember we all share the water we swim in, and equally share in the responsibility of keeping poop, germs, and pee out of the water.

• Shower or bathe with soap paying special attention to your bottom before you go swimming and take a rinse shower before you get back into the water

• Do not swim if you have diarrhea

• Take bathroom breaks at least every hour

• Practice good hand washing after using the bathroom or changing diapers

• Check the chlorine level (1 – 3 ppm) & pH level (7.2 – 7.8) before getting into the water
Most pool supply stores sell pool testing strips, or you can get FREE pool strips at http://www.healthypools.org/freeteststrips/ and get more information on healthy swimming at http://www.healthypools.org/.
HealthyPools.org recommends using your senses and a little common sense to help keep you safe and healthy this summer.

Sight: Look for water that is clean, clear, and blue. Touch: Check for tiles that feel smooth and clean.
Smell: Make sure there are no strong odors.
Sound: Listen for pool cleaning equipment (HealthyPools.org). I wish you and your family wonderful memories and a healthy summer. Now, let’s go swimming!

Howard Baker, RN BSN
For questions, comments, or suggestions on topics you want to read about please email me at: [email protected]

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