The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is reminding Hoosiers to protect themselves from illness and injury in pools, lakes and other bodies of water as part of Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, which is observed May 20-26, 2019.
In Indiana, 114 people died of drowning in 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 10 people die in the U.S. each day from unintentional drowning.
“Each of us plays a role in preventing illnesses and injuries in the water we swim, play and relax in,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “We all should take simple steps to protect ourselves, our friends and our families when heading to the water this summer.”
The CDC advises that anyone going into the water have basic swimming skills and that children be supervised in and near water. Children should wear life jackets around natural bodies of water, even if they know how to swim.
Drowning isn’t the only danger swimming can pose. In 2018, Indiana had 323 cases of Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause a gastrointestinal illness that primarily involves watery diarrhea, stomach cramps and sometimes weight loss. Cryptosporidium can survive for days even in properly chlorinated pools.
To reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting a recreational water illness, swimmers should:
• Avoid swallowing the water
• Shower before and after getting in the water and thoroughly dry ears after swimming
• Avoid urinating or defecating in the water—be sure to take children on frequent restroom breaks, every 1 to 2 hours
• Check diapers and change them in a bathroom or diaper changing area, not poolside, and wash your hands and the child’s after the diaper change
• Refrain from swimming or letting children swim for at least two weeks if sick with diarrhea
Hoosiers who spend time in natural bodies of water should avoid swimming if a blue-green algal bloom is present and after a rain event because rain can wash contaminants like sewage overflows and animal feces into the water. Trash, animal waste and boat waste should be disposed of in designated areas.
Natural bodies of water also can contain organisms that can lead to illness, including Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba commonly found in soil and warm freshwater that in rare cases can cause a deadly brain infection. To reduce the risk of exposure, swimmers should avoid warm freshwater when the water temperature is high and the water level is low, avoid putting their head under water and hold their nose shut or use nose clips.
Swimmers also should take precautions to prevent sunburn and heat-related illnesses by applying sunscreen often and drinking plenty of fluids. Reapply sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.