Medical Advice: Swimming safety reminders for the water-bound

THE FLORIDA SUMMER is upon us, which means bathing suit and barbeque season is here. Summer swimming is the perfect way to cool off from the day’s heat. While playing in the pool can be fun, injuries and illnesses due to water-related activities increase this time of year. It’s important for individuals to be aware of water health and safety tips.

The week before Memorial Day (May 18-24, 2015) was Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. The goal of the campaign was to increase awareness about the health benefits of safe swimming. Just 2.5 hours of water-based (or other forms of) physical activity per week has health benefits across a lifetime.

While playing in the pool can be fun, it is important to be sure certain germs remain uninvited into the water we share and swim in. Most water related illnesses are caused by germs in public places where people swim and bathe. Chlorine and other disinfectants kill most germs within minutes, but some can survive for days. Some bodily fluids such as sweat, urine, and fecal matter can be resistant to chlorine. When mixed with chlorine, the fluids can form chemicals that can cause illnesses.

Here are some important healthy swimming tips to be mindful of this summer:

• Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
• Shower before getting in water.
• Leave urine or fecal matter out of the water.
• Don’t swallow the water.
• Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks.
• Check diapers and change them in bathrooms or changing areas — not poolside, to keep germs away from pool.
• Reapply sunscreen.
• Stay hydrated.

Staying safe while you swim is just as important as healthy swimming. In 2010, unintentional drowning killed 1,027 children in the United States. More children ages one to four die of drowning each year than of any other cause, with the exception of birth defects. Florida leads the nation in unintentional drowning deaths of children younger than the age of five. Hundreds more experience near-drowning tragedies that can cause permanent health problems and developmental delays.

This trend can be reversed by remembering these simple swimming safety tips:

• Make sure children have close adult supervision when near the water.
• For those interested in playing in the pool, it is important to learn how to swim.
• Use life jackets and/or floatation devices for those who do not know how to swim.
• Know how to perform CPR. This is always a great skill to have, especially with young swimmers.
• Install fencing and other barriers around your pool and check regularly to make sure they are working properly.
• Make sure your doors have alarms and child-proof locks so that you know if a child has left the house.
• Remove toys, especially riding toys, away from the pool area. Children can fall off while riding toys, like bicycles, and into the water.

Taking these simple steps will help you minimize risk of illness and injuries and maximize health benefits and pool enjoyment. Let’s all do our part to help keep ourselves, our families, and our friends healthy this summer and all year-round. Remember … Think healthy. Swim healthy. Be healthy!

For more information about Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at For more information regarding swim safety and monitoring, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website at


article by DR. ULYEE CHOE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Ulyee Choe, an infectious disease physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (FDOH-Polk) and as a Polk County Medical Association member. For more information about FDOH-Polk, visit

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