Take Steps for a Healthy Swimming Season

ALBANY, NY, July 9, 2007 – With summer in full swing, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., recommends a number of steps New Yorkers can take to ensure a healthy swimming season.

"Swimming is great family fun and great exercise," Commissioner Daines said. "New York has so many wonderful beaches and public pools for us to enjoy. But everyone needs to use appropriate caution to prevent recreational water illness. Whether you go to one of the many swimming pools or beaches regulated by the Department of Health or swim in your own backyard pool, you can practice healthy swimming behaviors and reduce your chance of getting sick."

To keep swimming water clean, practice these personal behaviors:

  • Don't go in the water at a beach, pool, spa or spray ground if you are ill, especially if you have diarrhea.
  • Practice good hygiene – shower before swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Visit the bathroom often with children and check diapers frequently (swim diapers are not completely effective at containing waste).
  • Change diapers in a bathroom – not poolside or beach front – and thoroughly clean the child and the diaper changing area.

Here are some other health tips:

  • Whether a pool is regulated or private, its water should be clean and clear. You should be able to see clearly any painted stripes and the bottom of the pool. A pool operator should be able to tell you the chlorine and pH levels and how often it is checked.
  • On a natural body of water such as a lake or ocean, swim only at a regulated beach. These beaches are monitored for water quality and other safety hazards.
  • Avoid swallowing pool, beach or spray ground water.

The State Health Department regulates 6,000 swimming pools and 1,600 bathing beaches. Going to a regulated facility offers many protections, because safety and health concerns are considered as part of the permit process. Consumers who take these added steps further protect themselves and others who use the facilities.

Another water safety issue of utmost concern to the State Health Department is the prevention of drowning. Children under age 5 and teenagers have the highest drowning rates. The youngest children usually drown in pools at home by falling into the water, and people of all other ages most often drown in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and oceans.

State and local health departments conduct detailed investigations of drownings and serious injuries at regulated swimming pools and bathing beaches. Increased supervision and swimmer buddy attentiveness can make a difference. Ask for and expect well-trained lifeguards and properly maintained safety equipment at public swimming pools and bathing beaches. Remember that swimming in unregulated waters carries dangers of strong currents, unmonitored water quality and underwater hazards.

Enjoy the summer and stay healthy!