Stay safe and healthy when you cool off in the water this summer


It’s finally warming up outside, and as school ends and summer begins, you may be thinking about taking the kids to the pool, water park, lake or beach. Before you go, here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe from drowning – and from possibly getting sick.

Let’s start with drowning. What the most important thing to do to help keep people and children safe?

Ten people drown in the U.S. every day, and many are children. From 2011 through 2015, drowning was the second-leading cause of injury death for Idaho kids aged 1 to 9, exceeded only by motor vehicle accident fatalities. The most important thing to do is to simply pay attention. About 75 percent of drownings that involve children happened because an adult failed to pay attention for less than 5 minutes. Watching your children carefully while they swim is important so you can see if they are struggling.

Sometimes it’s difficult to pay close attention because you’re busy with other children. Is there anything else we can do?  

Probably the next biggest thing is to know your limits, and know your children’s limits. Make sure they know how to swim, float and tread water. If your children aren’t strong swimmers, have them wear a life jacket, even if you’re near the water but not in it. And if you’re in a boat, please have everyone on board wear a life jacket. Even strong swimmers can benefit from a little extra floatation if they end up in the water unexpectedly.

What about canals? Are they safe for swimming?  

No – canals are for irrigation and are not for swimming. Three children drown in Idaho canals each year, on average. That’s three children too many. Canals are dangerous. Head to the pool if you want to take a dip. And to prevent infectious diseases, don’t use irrigation water to fill kiddie pools!

What else should we know about water safety?

Water safety also includes infectious diseases. Cryptosporidium, also called crypto for short, is a microscopic parasite that spreads easily at splash parks and pools when infected people get into the water. It’s the most common swimming pool-related infection reported in Idaho. The Department of Health and Welfare receives more than 100 reports of crypto a year for Idahoans. The actual number could be much higher because some people won’t seek medical care. Other nasty bugs could include E. coli and norovirus.


What are your best tips for preventing infection?

Don’t get in pool water if it’s murky. It’s also important to do your part: Stay out of the pool if you have diarrhea and for two weeks after symptoms have been resolved. Same for your kiddos. Always shower before getting into the pool, and don’t swallow the pool water. And last (but definitely not least) wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.

Anything else?

If you’re swimming with children, take them on bathroom breaks every hour or so, and check diapers every 30-60 minutes. Change diapers in the bathroom or at a diaper-changing station away from the pool, and be sure to wash your hands when you’re done.

A Closer Look at Your Health airs each Tuesday at 6:50 a.m. MDT on News Radio KBOI 670 AM in Boise. This is an extended version of the episode that aired May 30. 


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