Virginia Department of Health Offers Tips for Recreational Water Use

May 18, 2015

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Prevent Illness and Injury this Summer

(Richmond, VA) The weekend before Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and the beginning of visits to swimming pools, water parks, lakes and local beaches. As warm days arrive the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reminds Virginians to take precautions to keep you and your family healthy and safe while enjoying the water this summer.

“Children are especially vulnerable to illness and injury in and around recreational water,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “In large part, this information is being provided specifically for parents of young children to raise their awareness and assist them in their efforts to keep their children healthy and safe all summer long. ”

Although drowning and swimming-related injuries are often preventable, deaths still occur each year and the consequences of injury leave people struggling with memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning. VDH provides the following recommendations to reduce the risk of drowning and injuries:

  • Teach children to swim. Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning, especially among children 1 to 4 years of age.
  • Never leave a child alone near a body of water and always designate a responsible adult to watch children swimming or playing in or around the water.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Performing CPR can save a life while paramedics are on their way.
  • Be sure to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets when boating, regardless of the distance you are traveling, the size of the boat or how well the boaters can swim.
  • Use the buddy system during all recreational water activities and always be aware of local weather conditions, dangerous waves and rip currents.

Recreational water use can sometimes cause certain illnesses. These illnesses are caused by germs that are spread by swallowing, breathing in mists, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers or oceans. The most common illnesses are gastrointestinal and may include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Other illnesses associated with recreational water can cause eye, skin, ear, respiratory, neurologic and wound infections. To prevent illnesses, VDH suggests the following:

  • Avoid getting water in your mouth, and especially do not swallow it.
  • Don’t swim when you are ill. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid water shooting up your nose, especially in lakes during the summer where water is shallow or stagnant.
  • Look for swimming advisory signs before entering the water. Coastal public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria. Signs may indicate that water is unsafe for recreational activity.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for a few days after a heavy rain.
  • Do not swim in natural waters if you have a cut or open wound.
  • Make sure your children have bathroom breaks and check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” might be too late.
  • Wash with soap before and after swimming. You can spread germs in the water and get others sick.

For more information about recreational water safety, visit