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For Release: May 12, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Health Officials Urge Caution in Recreational Waters

The week before Memorial Day, May 23–29, is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week.  Oklahoma’s plentiful recreational water venues provide ample opportunities for people to increase their level of physical activity and enjoy their leisure time. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) would like to encourage everyone to have a healthy, safe, and fun summer by observing healthy swimming behaviors. 

Healthy and safe swimming behaviors will prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and injuries. RWIs are caused by germs spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans.   They can also be spread by breathing in mists or aerosols from contaminated water.    RWIs can be prevented if the public will exercise appropriate swimming behaviors.

Healthy swimming behaviors include the following:

  • Avoid swimming when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid swallowing pool or lake water. In fact, avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Practice good hygiene: shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often. Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside. Wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before swimming.
  • Swimming in a well maintained swimming pool will reduce your likelihood of developing an RWI as many of the germs are killed by chlorine.
  • Avoid swimming in a pool that has cloudy or off-colored water.  It is especially important not to swim in a pool when you cannot see the main bottom drain.

In addition to RWI, water safety is another important concern. On average, 23 persons drown in Oklahoma lakes each year.  To ensure your fun isn’t cut short by tragedy, take the following precautions to prevent drowning:     

  • Children should only swim in designated and well-supervised swimming areas. There is no substitute for active and constant adult supervision when children are in or around water!
  • Children should wear a properly-fitted life jacket or personal flotation device. Products such as swimming noodles and water wings are not safety devices. They should never be used in the place of life jackets or personal flotation devices.
  • Properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should be used by all individuals when boating or participating in boating activities, such as water-skiing, regardless of swimming ability or experience, size of boat, or distance to be traveled.
  • Learn CPR and other life saving techniques, and know how to use rescue equipment.

From 2004-2008, 56 children less than 5 years of age in Oklahoma drowned. More than half of these drownings occurred in swimming pools. Some simple safety measures that can be taken to prevent childhood drowning include:

  • Installing four-sided fencing around residential pools. Completely surround the pool with fencing that separates the house and play area from the pool. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward and that are out of reach from children.
  • Clear the pool and surrounding area of toys that may entice children to enter the pool area unsupervised and fall in.
  • Nothing takes the place of constant supervision of children. Never leave children unsupervised for even a minute. People under the influence of alcohol and drugs should not be supervising children.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first. 

For more information regarding waterborne diseases and prevention, please visit: http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/Waterborne_Diseases/index.html

For more information regarding water-related injuries and prevention, please visit: http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Injury_Prevention_Service/Fact_Sheets/Drowning_and_Water_Safety/index.html

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