Harmful algal blooms in recreational water: When in doubt, stay out!

Most of the year, Idaho’s lakes and reservoirs are safe to enjoy. But when water temperatures increase, as they typically do in July and August, and the right type of nutrients are available, some bodies of water can produce blooms of harmful bacteria that can be dangerous for humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. Those blooms are called cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms, or HABs for short. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is currently listing 12 bodies of water with health advisories in Idaho.

What causes harmful algal blooms?

The blooms are caused by bacteria that can produce toxins. The blooms are also referred to as cyanobacterial blooms. When weather conditions are calm and there is an increase in water temperature and nutrients, bacteria can rapidly increase and produce a bloom. Blooms can occur at any time, but they most often occur in late summer or early fall.

What do these blooms look like?

They can be blue, bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint or anti-freeze floating on the water. As the bloom develops, it may look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of lakes and ponds.

What are the symptoms of an exposure to a bloom?

The most common health effects are skin and eye irritation. Other more severe effects can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness and tingling in lips, fingers, and toes
Continue reading “Harmful algal blooms in recreational water: When in doubt, stay out!”

Avoid harmful algal blooms when enjoying Idaho waters this summer

henrys-lake-bg-algaeIdaho has many beautiful lakes and reservoirs where you can fish, boat, and swim. Most of the year these bodies of water are safe to enjoy. However, when water temperatures rise and the right type of nutrients are available, some bodies of water can produce harmful algal blooms. These can pose health risks to humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. Continue reading “Avoid harmful algal blooms when enjoying Idaho waters this summer”

Most important thing you can do to keep kids safe in the water? Pay attention.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI News Radio 670. This is the segment from June 7.)

It’s hot, so we’re all headed to the pool later today, right? Before you go, you may want to brush up on some tips to keep you and your family safe from drowning, but also 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. 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. Swimmers who are struggling to breathe and keep their heads above water likely won’t be able to wave their arms or call for help in an obvious way. They’ll be concentrating on keeping their heads above water. Watching your children carefully while they swim is important so you can see if they are struggling.  Continue reading “Most important thing you can do to keep kids safe in the water? Pay attention.”