Public pools and beaches around Virginia begin to open in late May, making this the ideal time to talk about ways to reduce the risk of recreational water-associated illness, drowning, and injury in our communities. Water is not only fun to play and cool off in, but just a few hours of water-based physical activity per week can offer low-impact health benefits for everyone!
At pools, spas, and waterparks:
- Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
- Don’t swallow the water.
- Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
- Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
- Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
- Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
- NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.
Safely recreating in Virginia’s natural streams, rivers, and lakes:
- Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
- All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
- Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
- Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
- Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
- If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
- Shower with soap and water before and after swimming.
- Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
- Report harmful algal blooms or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:
- 888-238-6154 or
- Submit an online report.
It is also important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:
- Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
- Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
- Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
- Know CPR. Find a class near you.
- Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
- Use locks or alarms for pool access points.
To learn more about staying safe in pools and natural waters, visit swimhealthyva.com.