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Ochsner: Stay safe on the water

Millions of us enjoy warm weather every year by going to the beach, swimming in pools, water skiing and boating. However, because water sports and boating are fun and enjoyable, people often don’t think about the risks involved and as a result, don’t follow basic and necessary safety measures.

Why is water safety so important? It only takes a moment – a child or a weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the number one cause of death among children ages 1-4 and is a leading cause of death among teens.

Everyone who participates in water sports of any kind should know the basic rules of safety. Follow the guidelines below to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of others, while in or on the water.

  • Secure pools with appropriate barriers and designate a water guardian to supervise children ANY TIME there is access to water—69 percent of children who drown do so when they are not swimming. Don’t let your guard down just because you are inside. Ensure that everyone in the home knows how to swim by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and swim courses. Establishing and enforcing firm rules and behaviors, such as ‘no diving’, ‘stay away from drain covers’, ‘swim with a buddy’ and ‘walk please’ is helpful for pool safety.
  • While boating or in open water, you should ALWAYS wear a properly fitted life jacket. Boating under the influence of alcohol is just as deadly as drinking and driving. So, play it safe and avoid alcohol when you’re on a boat. To avoid CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning, which is emitted by all internal combustion engines, ensure there is enough ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment and use CO detectors, especially in living and sleeping areas of your boat.
  • When water skiing, a spotter (someone other than the driver of the boat) should always keep an eye on the skier. Always check the towline before each skier skis. It is also important to maintain a reasonable, safe speed, steer clear of docks and stay away from other boats.
  • Be sure to carry extra safety supplies and equipment with you when you are boating. The supplies and equipment should be accessible yet stored safely and securely. These can include extra life jackets, a mobile phone, first aid kit, equipment manual and tools, bottles of water and towels. Ensure you and your passengers are aware of these items and know how to use them properly.

COVID-19 Precautions

The CDC currently states there is no evidence the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential risks.

Most pools require certain levels of chemicals, like chlorine or bromine, to keep them clean, and viruses do not typically survive in them. The standard level of chlorine in a pool should kill off any virus in the water.

However, when swimming in a pool or sitting in a hot tub, keep in mind that you may encounter others. You should still try to maintain six feet of distance between you and anyone else that you do not live with and wear a cloth face mask covering your face when you are not in the pool. If the pool area has seating, make sure the chairs are spread out.

If you are going to the beach or the lake and plan to swim in the water, you can rest easy that it is not believed that COVID-19 is spread in large bodies of water. Most viruses find it difficult to live in saltwater.

But like pools, beaches and lakes often attract a high number of people, and you can’t account for everywhere others have been or their current state of health. Follow the same rules you would follow on land and maintain at least six feet of separation between you and anyone you do not live with. The virus is more likely to be spread by droplets from speaking, coughing or sneezing, or possibly from direct contact on surfaces.

Precautions you should follow:

  • Avoid high-touch surfaces
  • Don’t share beach or pool toys
  • Don’t share food or drinks

Enjoy the warm weather in Louisiana and stay safe!

Submitted by Ochsner Health.Ochsner is proud to offer primary care and pediatric services at clinics in the River Parishes. Schedule online at www.ochsner.org.