What you need to know about water dangers

2018-05-25 | Chattanooga Times/Free Press

May 25--Cool early spring temperatures probably won't keep local waters too chilly for swimming over the Memorial Day weekend, so the Tennessee Department of Health is warning people about drowning risks, contaminants and germs.

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Each day, two children younger than 14 years of age die in the U.S., according to health officials. In 2016, 22 drowned in Tennessee.

Near-drowning incidents leave many others with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities and other permanent physical limitations.

To reduce the risk of drowning, health officials urge people to:

* Make sure everyone knows how to swim

* Use life jackets appropriately

* 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

"Each of us can play a role in preventing injuries and illness linked to the water we swim in this summer and all through the year," said Dr. Morgan McDonald, state Department of Health assistant commissioner for family health and wellness.

WATER ILLNESSES

Aside from drowning, water poses other health risks.

Recreational water illnesses can be caused by germs spread to people by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with contaminated water in pools, water parks, hot tubs, fountains, lakes, rivers or seawater, according to officials. They include gastrointestinal illness; eye infections and irritation; hepatitis; wound and skin infections; respiratory illness; ear infections and even neurological infections. Young children, elderly people, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk, officials said.

Illnesses can also be caused by chemicals in water or those that evaporate from water and cause indoor air quality problems.

"Our environmental health specialists inspect public swimming pools in Tennessee at least monthly for compliance with sanitation, disinfection and safety standards of the Tennessee Public Swimming Pool Law and rules," state health department Environmental Health Director Lori LeMaster said.

Dr. Mary-Margaret Fill, state Department of Health medical epidemiologist, said it's important to keep pools and other water free from contaminants.

"The best way to prevent water illnesses is to keep germs out of our swimming areas, and we can all help do that with simple precautions like not swimming when sick with diarrhea or other illnesses, not swallowing swim water and showering before swimming," Fill said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.