Then the rain let up and the sun came up
And we were gettin’ dry
Almost let a pick-up truck nearly pass us by

So we jumped right in and the driver grinned
And he dropped us up the road
We looked at the swim and we jumped right in
Not to mention fishing poles

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Let it run all over me

— Van Morrison – “And It Stoned Me” (MetroLyrics)


On The PediaBlog last month we looked at “Tips for Sun Safety” and examined ways to prevent tick bites in the absence of a Lyme disease vaccine. Today we’ll look at water safety.

Let’s first start by picking out some fun Fast Factscourtesy of the CDC:

  • Thirty-six percent of children aged 7-17 years, and 15% of adults in the United States, swim at least six times per year.
  • Swimming is the fourth most popular recreational activity in the United States.
  • Swimming is the most popular recreational activity for children and teens (ages 7-17).
  • There are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States.
  • About 91 million people over the age of 16 swim in oceans, lakes, and rivers each year in the United States.
  • There are over 7.3 million hot tubs in operation in the United States.
  • In the United States in 2009, almost 24 million individuals participated in motor or power boat activities.


This might be a little gross:

  • More than 1 in 5 (21.6%) of American adults do not know swimming while ill with diarrhea can heavily contaminate water in which we swim and make other swimmers sick.
  • A total of 81 recreational water–associated outbreaks affecting at least 1,326 persons were reported to CDC for 2009-2010.
  • Cryptosporidium (or Crypto) is an extremely chlorine-tolerant parasite that can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for 3.5–10.6 days.
  • Of 49 recreational water–associated outbreaks of gastroenteritis during 2009-2010, 55% were caused by Crypto.
  • Of 57 gastroenteritis outbreaks associated with treated (for example, chlorinated) recreational water venues, 84% were caused by Crypto.


Unintentional injuries and drownings are tragic, especially when so many are preventable:

  • In 2008, almost 4,600 persons visited an emergency department for pool chemical-associated injuries. The most common injury diagnoses were poisoning, which includes ingestion of pool chemicals as well as inhalation of vapor, fumes, or gases and dermatitis/conjunctivitis. More than half of the injuries occurred at a residence.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children aged 1–4 years. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 5–9 years.
  • More than 60% of fatal drownings of 0–4 year-olds occur in swimming pools.
  • In the United States in 2009, almost 24 million individuals participated in motor or power boat activities.
  • In 2010, 3,153 persons were injured and 672 died in recreational boating accidents.
  • Of those who drowned in a boating accident, 88% were reported to not be wearing a life jacket.


The American Red Cross provides these water safety tips:

  • Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
  • Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.
  • Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
  • Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.