Press Release

May 21, 2012


Swimming Season Safety

Every day two children die from drowning

SPRINGFIELD – As pools and beaches begin to open for the Memorial Day weekend, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, state public health director, is encouraging people to learn how to avoid injury and illness while swimming. The focus for his year’s Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week (May 21-27, 2012) is drowning prevention.

“Swimming is a great source of exercise, but if you are not careful, you may end up sick or hurt,” said Dr. Hasbrouck. “You can get sick from germs floating around in lakes, rivers and even swimming pools. There are also injury hazards you need to watch out for such as slipping on wet surfaces and swimming pool equipment malfunctions. Take the time during Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week to learn how to avoid illness and injury, before you jump in the water.”

Every day, two children under the age of 14 years die from drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children 1-4 years old and is the 7th leading cause of unintentional injury death for all ages.

Drowning is preventable, although each year thousands die and more are left with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state). To reduce the risk of drowning:

Prepare by making sure that:

  • Everyone knows how to swim
  • Older children and adults know CPR

When in the water, keep swimmers safe by:

  • Using life jackets that fit for younger or weaker swimmers
  • Providing continuous, attentive supervision even if there is a lifeguard
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs when swimming or watching swimmers

When NOT in the water, prevent access to the water by:

  • Installing and maintaining barriers (for pools: 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing covers)
  • Using locks or alarms for windows and doors

Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with recreational water illnesses (RWIs), which are caused by germs found in places where we swim. Illnesses can be caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, E. coli 0157:H7, and Shigella, and are spread by accidentally swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. If someone with diarrhea contaminates the water, swallowing the water can make you sick. Most germs are killed by chlorine, but some germs, like Crypto, are resistant to chlorine and can live in pools for days. That is why even the best maintained pools can spread illnesses. The best way to prevent RWIs is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. Follow these healthy swimming steps:

For all swimmers

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow pool water.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

For Parents of Young Children

  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. All children who are not toilet-trained should wear tightly fitting rubber or plastic pants.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not poolside.
  • Wash your children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming.

Illness can also be caused by an improper chemical balance in pools, water parks and spas and can be identified by burning eyes, nose and lungs. The following are things you can look for to prevent illness.

  • Clean and clear pool water; you should be able to clearly see any painted stripes and the bottom of the pool.
  • Smooth pool sides; tiles should not be sticky or slippery.
  • No odor; a well-chlorinated pool has little odor. A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
  • Pool equipment working; you should hear pool pumps and filtration running and feel water coming into the pool from submerged inlets.
  • Skimmers or gutters should not be flooded, but have a thin layer of water running over the edge.
For more information about recreational water illness prevention visit

idph online home
idph online home

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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