Press Release
 May 22, 2014
Melaney Arnold (217) 558-0500

Healthy and Safe Swimming: We’re in it Together

Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week 2014

SPRINGFIELD – The week before many pools and beaches open for the Memorial Day Weekend is designated as Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week – May 19-25, 2014. The week is a chance to focus on simple things swimmers and pool operators can do to stay safe and healthy in the water.

“Healthy swimming depends on what we bring into the pool - and what we keep out of it. We all share the water we swim in, we’re in it together,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “Before you jump in the pool, learn what you can do to prevent outbreaks of illnesses, drowning deaths and pool chemical injuries.”

Why is this important? Simple and effective prevention steps we can all take.

Illnesses caused by the germs in the places we swim:

In 2009–2010, 57 outbreaks were linked to pools. Chlorine and other disinfectants kill most germs within minutes, but some can survive for days. Pee and sweat mix with chlorine and form chemicals that can make our eyes red and trigger asthma attacks. So it’s important to keep germs, poop and pee out of the water we all swim in.

All swimmers:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before you start swimming.
  • Don’t poop or pee in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.

Parents of young children:

  • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes, or check diapers every 30–60 minutes.


Every day, two children in the U.S. less than 14 years old die from drowning. It is the leading cause of injury death for children 1–4 years old.

Keep swimmers safe in the water.

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets appropriately.
  • Provide continuous, attentive supervision close to swimmers.
  • Know CPR.

Prevent access to water when pool is not in use.

  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks/alarms for windows and doors.

Injuries caused by mishandling pool chemicals (for pool operators and residential pool owners):

InPool chemicals are added to the water to kill germs and maximize disinfection. Injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012. Nearly half of these preventable injuries were in children and teenagers and more than a third occurred at a home.

  • Read and follow directions on product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals.
  • Add pool chemicals poolside ONLY when directed by product label and when no one is in the water.

Prevent violent, potentially explosive, reactions.

  • NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.
  • Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.
  • Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemical.

To help prevent illnesses associated with swimming at Illinois beaches, each licensed beach is inspected annually to determine if required safety features are in place and there are no sources of possible pollution, such as sewage discharges. To learn about beach closures, advisories and test results, check out the Illinois Beach Guard System at Additional information about swimming pools and other swimming facilities can be found at

IDPH continues to implement its Five Year Strategy 2014-2018 to maximize IDPH’s effectiveness, influence and value for promoting wellness, health equity, safety and improved health outcomes. Strategic plan priorities include developing and expanding partnerships; improving data utilization; reducing health disparities; improving regulatory compliance; and branding, marketing and communicating IDPH’s value.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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