Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and the official opening day for many public pools. The Tennessee Department of Health is celebrating Healthy and Safe Swimming Week leading into the holiday with reminders about simple steps everyone can take to enjoy the fun of swimming and help keep our swimming areas safe and healthy.
Prevent Chemical Injuries
This year’s theme for Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is “Pool Chemistry for Healthy and Safe Swimming.” Chemicals like chlorine added to pool water kill germs and stop them from spreading, which helps keep swimmers healthy. However, mishandling pool chemicals leads to an average of 4,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. every year. Operators of public and private pools, hot tubs, spas or water playgrounds can take these steps to help prevent pool chemical injuries:
• Read and follow directions on product labels
• Wear appropriate safety equipment such as goggles when handling pool chemicals
• Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly young children
• Add chemicals poolside ONLY when directed by product labels and when no one is in the water
• NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, particularly chlorine products and acid
Avoid Water Illnesses
Nearly 500 outbreaks of illness were linked to pools, hot tubs, spas and water playgrounds in the U.S. from 2000 – 2014. Illnesses associated with swimming water can cause health problems including gastrointestinal illness; eye infections and irritation; hepatitis; wound and skin infections; respiratory illness and ear infections. Even healthy swimmers can get sick from water-related illnesses, but young children, elderly people, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
Follow these tips to help prevent water-related illness:
• Don’t swim or let your child swim if sick with diarrhea
• Check the pool’s latest inspection score
• Rinse off in the shower for at least one minute before swimming
• Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
• Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and/or check diapers often
• Check and change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area, not at poolside
• Don’t swallow the water you swim in
• Read and follow directions for pool chemical use and storage
Two children younger than 14 years of age die from drowning each day in the U.S. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four and near-drowning incidents leave many others with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities and other permanent physical limitations.
Follow these tips to help reduce the risk of drowning:
• Make sure everyone knows how to swim
• Use life jackets as directed
• 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
TDH Helps Keep Pools Safe
Tennessee Department of Health environmentalists inspect all public pools in the state at least once per month while the pools are in operation. TDH also provides training to pool operators to help ensure compliance with laws and rules for pool safety.
“Our environmental health specialists review plans for new public swimming pools and inspect public pools, spas and splash pads to make sure these areas meet sanitation, disinfection and safety standards,” said TDH Environmental Health Director Lori LeMaster, REHS. “Tennessee swimmers can stay safe and healthy by following posted pool rules, showering before entering a public pool and staying home and out of the water if they’re sick.”
Those with concerns about sanitation of a public pool can contact the local health department and ask for the environmentalist.
For more information about healthy and safe swimming, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming website www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.