Swimming is a great way to get exercise. It keeps you cool in the hot months, has a low incidence of injury and is fun. I want to review some safety aspects of being around the water for kids and adults so everyone can enjoy swimming and continue a healthy lifestyle.
First, never swim alone. This goes without saying for younger children, but even teens and adults need a swim buddy. Supervision by a lifeguard is ideal. Also remember to supervise young children when they are not supposed to be in the water. All pools should be enclosed by a fence on four sides to prevent young children from getting in the water accidently.
Second, open water swimming (swimming at the beach, lake or other natural body of water) is really fun, but it is smart to be careful of water currents, heavy surf and submerged objects in the water. Also, wear a lifejacket in the ocean or lake. Other flotation devices may suffice for the pool, but open water swimming requires a coast guard approved personal flotation device (life jacket).
Third never swim or boat while drinking alcohol. Alcohol affects balance, coordination and judgment. These affects are heightened by exposure to the sun and heat. This unfortunately is a deadly combination for many adults and teens.
Another health issue for pools and open water is water quality. By checking chlorine levels at home pools and checking pool inspection scores at public pools, you can know that the water is safe. The CDC‘s website lists these six steps to prevent water illness.
1) Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
2) Don’t swallow pool water.
3) Practice good hygiene- shower with soap before swimming and wash hands after using the bathroom.
4) Parents should have kids take frequent bathroom breaks. Urinating in the pool will lower chlorine levels and therefore make it less effective.
5) Change diapers in a bathroom, not poolside. and wash hands after.
6) Wash children with soap before swimming.
With these steps the goal is to avoid getting potentially infected fecal material into the water and to keep the water clean for all swimmers.
Hot tub folliculitis is a rash resulting from exposure to bacteria in the water of hot tubs. Checking the chlorine level in spas and hot tubs is the best way to prevent this infection. Also, entrapment can occur when children use hot tubs unattended. They can be held underwater by the strong intake valve’s suction. Be aware of this danger and know where the emergency shut off is located. The CDC recommends that children under five years be excluded from hot tubs.
Swimmer’s ear is another common problem connected to swimming. This is an ear canal infection that causes a painful and swollen ear. Swimmers ear or otitis external needs to be treated with prescription ear drops. To prevent swimmer’s ear, make sure that swimmers clear water from their ears and use a few drops of alcohol in the ears after swimming.