May 21, 2013
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

Take Preventive Steps to Avoid Recreational Water Illness This Summer

Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week is May 20-26

MADISON-State health officials are encouraging residents to take simple steps to protect their health - and the health of other swimmers - when they visit the neighborhood pool this summer.

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

Chlorine and human waste, sweat, or personal care products can combine to create something called chloramines, which can irritate the respiratory tract and can make asthma worse. Chloramines also use up the chlorine in the pool that would otherwise help kill germs.

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 take a rinse shower before getting back into the water. 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.
  • Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes. 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.
  • If you are a pool owner, use sufficient chlorine amounts to kill germs. Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.

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