This summer, as the temperatures rise and the sun shines brighter, lots of us will look for fun ways to cool off and stay active. Water activities like swimming, diving, canoeing, boating, water skiing, tubing or backyard fun with the water hose offer that refreshing relief during those hot summer months. However, many injuries can happen during recreational water activities and these can also be places where water-borne illness can spread.
Approximately 3,000 people die from drownings each year in the United States and 600 of those deaths are children. Even more children suffer from nonfatal drowning accidents that can result in hospitalization and severe brain damage. Traumatic injuries can also occur leading to cuts and fractured bones, most commonly to the head, neck and face. These injuries happen with all forms of water activity including head-first dives, cannon ball dives, and even jumps from less than 3 feet above the water surface.
Providing your child with swimming lessons is a proven way to lower the risk of drowning. Wearing a life-jacket can also reduce the risk of drowning but remember that air-filled or foam toys such as pool noodles are NOT safety devices! Any time children are in or around water they should be closely watched at all times– seconds really can matter between life and death.
Often water illnesses are overlooked when discussing water safety because of the misconception that chlorine kills all germs instantly. However, some germs are tolerant to chlorine like Cryptosporidium and other germs can survive for several minutes or even days before being eliminated. Water-borne illness can lead to infections of the gastrointestinal or GI system, skin, ears, lungs, eyes and nervous system. The most common symptom of water-related infections is diarrhea, and swallowing just a small amount of contaminated water can make you or your child sick.
Contributed by Dr. Michael Aquino and edited by Catherine Leopard (CLS).