The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' (DHH) Beach Monitoring Program monitors coastal waters throughout the summer to help keep residents safe.
The program, which works with state and local partners from May 1 to October 31, collects water samples for analysis at 24 beach sites along the Louisiana coast. The goal of the testing is to determine whether the state's water quality meets the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000.
"Going to any of our state's beaches with friends and family is a great way to spend your time this summer," said Beach Monitoring Program Administrator Gordon LeBlanc. "But it's important to stay safe in the water while you're out there."
Each week, LDH collects and analyzes water samples for high levels of enterococci, which indicates the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoans. The Department posts signs each week to reflect current water quality based on each location's test results. Visit the LDH Beach Monitoring website to check on any location's current status.
Individuals who ingest waterborne bacteria may become ill and exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, sore throat, stomach cramps or vomiting. Children, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly have a higher risk of becoming sick.
Swimmers and others enjoying the water can become exposed to bacteria by ingesting it through the mouth, nose and ears, or through an open wound. If LDH test results indicate a beach site is unsafe, the Department works with the local government on beach closure considerations.
The program monitors sites including Constance Beach, Cypremort Point, Fontainebleau and Grand Isle state parks, Holly Beach, Rutherford, Martin, Long (Dung) Beach, Little Florida, Gulf Breeze, Grand Isle, Elmer's Island, Lake Charles North Beach and Lake Charles South Beach.
While spending time on the beach, also remember the following tips:
• Never swim alone and always have adult supervision when children and other people requiring supervision are in or around water.
• Make sure everyone who plans to get in the water knows how to swim.
• Use alcohol responsibly around water and avoid its use entirely when supervising children.
• Avoid swimming after heavy rains and near runoff areas where there may be an increase in risk of exposure to bacteria.
• Always wear sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and an SPF of at least 15 or 30.
• Apply sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun, and reapply at least every two hours.
• Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin, wear UV-blocking sunglasses and consider wearing a wide-brim hat that shades the face, head, ears and neck.
• Take frequent breaks from the sun by going indoors or moving into the shade, especially during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
This is the fifth article in a series of Summer Safety advisories the Department will send out this summer. Check back each Wednesday throughout the summer for more safety information.
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.