Heed water safety tips for safe summer

Published 7:09 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Swimming, boating and other recreational water uses provide many hours of enjoyment for people seeking to get outside this summer.

Wearing a life jacket when swimming is among the water safety tips to keep children and adults safe this summer. Others include avoiding getting water in your mouth, showering before swimming and taking children to the bathroom frequently.

However, each year in Virginia, children and adults suffer severe injuries, illnesses and death because of not using simple precautions around the water. Drowning is the leading cause of death resulting from unintentional injury among children between 1 and 4 years old in Virginia.

It is estimated that for every child who drowns, three receive care for non-fatal submersion injuries, which can cause brain damage resulting gin long-term disabilities.

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“Never leave a child alone near a pool, spa or standing body of water and always designate a responsible adult to watch children swimming or playing in or around the water,” said Venita Newby-Owens, director of the Virginia Beach Health District. “It only takes a moment for tragedy to strike.”

Pool owners should take steps to prevent drowning by ensuring appropriate safety measures are in place. The most important of these measures is a four-sided isolation fence with self-closing and self-latching gates, as well as drain covers that meet state regulations to prevent underwater entrapment.

To prevent drowning during other types of recreational activities such as boating and swimming in open bodies of water, use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets when boating, regardless of distance to be traveled, size of boat or swimming ability of boaters; use the buddy system; and avoid alcohol prior to or during water activities.

People should also take precautions to prevent infections caused by bacteria and microorganisms in the water. Recreational water illnesses are contracted by swallowing or coming into contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, lakes, rivers or oceans. The most common waterborne illnesses are gastrointestinal and may cause vomiting, diarrhea or nausea. Less commonly, skin, ear and eye infections can result from contact with contaminated water.

Following these healthy swimming steps will help to protect you, your family and other swimmers:

4Don’t swim when you are ill. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

4Don’t swallow pool, lake, river, or ocean water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.

4Practice 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.

4Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.

4Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside or at a sandy beach. Germs can spread in and around the swimming area.

4Wash your child thoroughly, especially the diaper area, with soap and water before swimming.

For more information on injury and illness prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/rwi-prevent.html. For more information on drowning prevention, visit www.vahealth.org/Injury/topics/drowning.htm.