Swimming Safety

Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life. Americans swim hundreds of millions of times in pools, oceans, lakes, rivers, and hot tubs/spas each year and most people have a safe and healthy time enjoying the water. However, it is important to be aware of ways to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs), sunburn, and drowning that can occur. CDC's Healthy Swimming Program and website, launched in 2001, provides information for the public, public health and medical professionals, and aquatics staff so everyone can maximize the health benefits of swimming while minimizing the risk of illness and injury.

 

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RECREATIONAL WATER ILLNESSES (RWIs)

Contrary to popular belief, chlorine does not kill all germs instantly. There are germs today that are very tolerant to chlorine and were not known to cause human disease until recently. Once these germs get in the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make you sick.

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.

RWIs include a wide variety of infections, such as gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illenesses are caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptospordium) Shigellanorovirus and E. coli O157:H7. With RWI outbreaks on the rise, swimmers need to take an active role in helping to protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs. It is important for swimmers to learn the basic facts about RWIs so they can keep themselves and their family healthy every time they swim.

In the past two decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of RWI outbreaks associated with swimming. Crypto, which can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools, has become the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrheal illness. From 2004 to 2008, reported Crypto cases increased over 200% (from 3,411 cases in 2004 to 10,500 cases in 2008) 1.

Although Crypto is tolerant to chlorine, most germs are not. Keeping chlorine at recommended levels is essential to maintain a healthy pool. However, a 2010 study found that 1 in 8 public pool inspections resulted in pools being closed immediately due to serious code violations such as improper chlorine 

To learn more on RWIs and other swimming related topics, please visit cdc.org.

 

8 QUIET SIGNS OF SOMEONE DROWNING

Drowning is the second-most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 (just behind motor vehicle accidents). In a 2004 study by a national safety group, 90 percent of children who drowned did so while under the care of an adult or a teenager. In many cases, the study suggests, that person had a momentary lapse of attention. But the fact is that often those watching don’t know what to look for—because drowning doesn’t look like drowning. To ward off a tragedy in the making, watch for the 8 signs that someone is in trouble.

1. A drowning person can’t call for help—she has to be able to breathe before she can speak. When a person is drowning, her mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for her to exhale, inhale, and call out.

2. She can’t wave for help either. A drowning person instinctively extends her arms to the sides and presses down to lift her mouth out of the water; a child may extend her arms forward. She can’t use her arms to move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.

3. A drowning person remains upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. She can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.

4. Eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or closed.

5. Hair may be over forehead or eyes.

6. Head is low in the water, with mouth at water level; head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.

7. Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that she doesn’t look like she’s drowning. She may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore, pool deck, or dock. Ask her, “Are you all right?” If she can answer at all, she probably is. If she returns a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to her.

8. Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.

For more information, visit Reader's Digest at rd.com