Cool early spring temperatures probably won't keep local waters too chilly for swimming over the Memorial Day weekend, so the Tennessee Department of Health is warning people about drowning risks, contaminants and germs.
Drowning is a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Each day, two children younger than 14 years of age die in the U.S., according to health officials. In 2016, 22 drowned in Tennessee.
Near-drowning incidents leave many others with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities and other permanent physical limitations.
To reduce the risk of drowning, health officials urge people to:
- Make sure everyone knows how to swim
- Use life jackets appropriately
- Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers, even if a lifeguard is present
- Know CPR
- Don't use alcohol or drugs when swimming or watching swimmers
- Discourage horseplay and stunts
- Prevent access to water when the pool is not in use
"Each of us can play a role in preventing injuries and illness linked to the water we swim in this summer and all through the year," said Dr. Morgan McDonald, state Department of Health assistant commissioner for family health and wellness.
Aside from drowning, water poses other health risks.
Recreational water illnesses can be caused by germs spread to people by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with contaminated water in pools, water parks, hot tubs, fountains, lakes, rivers or seawater, according to officials. They include gastrointestinal illness; eye infections and irritation; hepatitis; wound and skin infections; respiratory illness; ear infections and even neurological infections. Young children, elderly people, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk, officials said.
Illnesses can also be caused by chemicals in water or those that evaporate from water and cause indoor air quality problems.
"Our environmental health specialists inspect public swimming pools in Tennessee at least monthly for compliance with sanitation, disinfection and safety standards of the Tennessee Public Swimming Pool Law and rules," state health department Environmental Health Director Lori LeMaster said.
Dr. Mary-Margaret Fill, state Department of Health medical epidemiologist, said it's important to keep pools and other water free from contaminants.
"The best way to prevent water illnesses is to keep germs out of our swimming areas, and we can all help do that with simple precautions like not swimming when sick with diarrhea or other illnesses, not swallowing swim water and showering before swimming," Fill said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.
How to reduce health risks
Reduce illness risks
Follow these tips to help prevent recreational water illnesses:
› Don’t swim or let your child swim if sick with diarrhea
› Check out the pool’s latest inspection score
› Shower with soap before and after swimming
› Don’t pee or poop in the water
› Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
› Take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often
› Check and change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area, not at poolside
› Don’t swallow the water you swim in
› Read and follow directions for pool chemical use and storage
Reduce drowning risks
Follow these tips to help reduce the risk of drowning:
› Make sure everyone knows how to swim
› Use life jackets appropriately
› Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers, even if a lifeguard is present
› Know CPR
› Don’t use alcohol or drugs when swimming or watching swimmers
› Discourage horseplay and stunts
› Prevent access to water when the pool is not in use
Reduce risk of electrical shock
Follow these tips to reduce the risk of electrical shock:
› Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running
› While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently
› If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock
› When installing a new pool, hot tub or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations
› Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency
› Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away
Source: Tennessee Department of Health and the National Fire Protection Association