May 18, 2012

Plan Ahead for Water Safety Before Memorial Day Weekend

Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week is May 21 - 27

MADISON-State health officials are raising awareness about ways to ensure healthy, safe swimming to prevent recreational water illness and injury.

In the United States, thousands of people get sick each year with recreational water illnesses caused by germs found where they swim, and drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children age one to four. Nationwide, two children under age 14 die from drowning each day. In Wisconsin, there were 65 total drowning deaths among children and adults in 2010 alone. Others who have come close to drowning may face long-term impairments including memory problems, learning disabilities, permanent physical disabilities and paralysis.

"To make sure swimming is healthy and safe, it's critical to take precautions to prevent drowning, and to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness," said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer.

To help prevent recreational water illnesses:

  • Don't swim when you have diarrhea. This can spread germs in the water and make others sick.
  • Don't swallow pool or lake water. Avoid getting the water in your mouth.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
  • Make sure children who are not toilet-trained wear swim diapers.
  • Parents of young children should wash their children before swimming, take kids to the bathroom every 30 to 60 minutes and check their diapers.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.

Precautions to prevent drowning:

  • Make sure everyone in your family knows how to swim.
  • Ensure that older children and adults know CPR.
  • Use life jackets that fit younger or weaker swimmers.
  • Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to the swimmers, even if there is a lifeguard.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when swimming or watching swimmers.
  • Check the depth of water before diving to prevent neck/head injuries.
  • Prevent access to pools when not in use by installing and maintaining barriers and using locks or alarms for windows and doors. Pools should have four-sided fencing and weight-bearing covers.

For more information about healthy swimming, visit

For information about drowning prevention, visit