Summertime is here, which means Louisiana families are already starting to get active and enjoy the water. Whether you are taking a trip to a lake, going for a dip in the pool or just pulling out the water-based yard toys, the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) advises you to take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe from risks associated with water activities such as drowning and infection from germs.
"There are a number of beautiful options for us to enjoy the water during the summer months," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "We don't want to discourage anyone from swimming, but we do want to make sure everyone is careful and takes the proper precautions."
In-ground pools should be properly chlorinated, treated and maintained, which reduces the risk of the pool harboring microorganisms. Additionally, residents should use fresh water each day in blow-up pools and water-based yard toys.
Additionally, the germs, bacteria and parasites in Louisiana's natural waterways, including rivers, lakes, marshes and the Gulf of Mexico, can make you sick and may be fatal in rare cases. These materials may occur naturally, but also enter water from sewage overflows, polluted storm water runoff, sewage treatment plant malfunctions, boating waste, agricultural runoff and other sources.
"Swimming is generally safe, but it's important to remember there is always a small risk for infection due to contaminates that may get into any waterway," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "Check yourself and anyone you're supervising for any open wounds before getting in the water."
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in America for children between the ages of 1 and 14, as well as the fifth leading cause of unintended injury death for people of all ages. Thousands of people drown every year in the U.S., but drowning is almost always preventable. Adults can protect themselves and their children and reduce the risk of drowning by taking the following precautions.
• Never swim alone and always have adult supervision when people are in or around water. This is especially important for children and people who have seizure disorders or other medical conditions that could cause them to lose consciousness.
• Avoid swimming with an open cut or wound, and be sure to shower or bathe immediately after swimming in a public waterway.
• Make sure everyone who plans to swim has taken swimming lessons and knows how to swim.
• Learn CPR.
• Do not use air-filled or foam toys in place of life jackets.
• Use alcohol responsibly around water and avoid its use entirely when supervising children.
• Minimize dunking your head under water while swimming and avoid ingesting or swallowing the water.
Swimming in Pools:
• Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
• Keep a phone near the pool or other body of water, along with rescue equipment such as a life preserver and a shepherd's hook -- a long pole with a hook at the end swimmers can grab to be pulled out of the water if in distress.
• Ensure that pools are surrounded by a fence at least four feet high. Pool gates should self-close and self-latch at a height small children cannot reach.
Swimming in Bodies of Water:
• Never dive into water unless you are 100 percent certain it is deep enough and clear of any debris. Shallow water, underwater logs, big rocks or other debris are all dangerous when you are diving into the Gulf, rivers, lakes or swimming holes. Diving head first can cause serious injury.
• Avoid swimming after heavy rains, near a drainage pipe, in a ditch, near runoff areas, in littered areas or in other areas that have posted warnings against swimming there.
• When going to the beach, make sure the water is safe by contacting the local government or beach monitoring agency and checking for signage.
This is the first in a series of Summer Safety advisories the Department will send out this summer. Check back each Wednesday throughout the summer.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.