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State Department of Public Health offers safety tips to prevent injury during activities to keep cool          Send a link to a friend

[JULY 31, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinoisans are reminded to take precautions to prevent disease and injury while keeping cool this summer. The onset of hot summer days can mean danger while participating in certain activities at beaches and swimming pools, hot tubs or spas, as well as other outdoor fun. There is also a potential for injury, such as falls on wet surfaces and diving accidents.

People will have more fun at the beach or pool, while keeping cool, if they know what potential health hazards to avoid. For example, the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends you should swim only in pools where the water quality is properly maintained and avoid beaches littered with trash or other debris.

In June, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich launched the Keep Cool Illinois campaign, a comprehensive, multiagency effort to help prepare Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children and people with disabilities, for the dangers and risks that summer temperatures can bring. The campaign includes a statewide network of cooling centers, targeted outreach to vulnerable residents, energy assistance programs, public service announcements, air pollution warnings, fire safety, water safety and energy savings tips. As part of the campaign, the Illinois Department of Public Health released the following helpful tips for outdoor enthusiasts.

Swimming can be hazardous due to the numerous diseases that may be transmitted by contaminated water. Swimming in contaminated water can also cause infections in the eyes, nose, ears and in cuts and scrapes. Ways to avoid pool contamination include showering before entering the pool and washing hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.

The following are some tips to use this summer during activities to keep cool.

Beach-goers should:

  • Never swim alone, regardless of how experienced a swimmer.

  • Avoid swimming at beaches where there are large populations of ducks or geese. The waste produced by these birds causes high bacteria levels in the water.

  • Look for movement in the water; it helps keep the water clean. Do not swim in stagnant or still water.

  • Look for a sandy -- not muddy -- beach that has a grassy or wooded area around it. Such areas reduce surface runoff into the swimming water.

  • Do not swim at any beach right after a heavy rain. Runoff following a heavy rain may result in a high bacteria count.

  • When diving at a beach, exercise extreme caution. Beach water is not as clear as water in a pool, so underwater obstructions may not be visible. If there is any doubt, do not dive.

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Pool attendees should:

  • Look for obvious signs of cleanliness, including whether the water is clear and if you can see the bottom of the pool. Although it is impossible to tell if water is free of bacteria, the water should appear crystal clear, be continuously circulated and be maintained at a level that allows free overflow into the gutter or skimmer. There should be no strong odor of ammonia or chlorine.

  • Make sure drains are clear of debris and that drain covers are in place and secure.

  • Determine that a lifeguard is present, especially if children are present. If no lifeguard is on duty, do not let children swim unless a responsible adult who knows lifesaving techniques and first aid accompanies them.

Skin infections are the most common illness spread through hot tubs and spas.

At the spa or hot tub:

  • Ensure that the water is not extremely hot, which is not safe. Soaking time should not exceed 10 to 15 minutes at temperatures between 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If nausea or lightheadedness occur, get out of the water immediately.

  • Monitor or restrict small children from using a spa or hot tub, due to the heat and turbulent waters.

  • Verify that suction grate covers are in place to prevent entrapment. Bathers should not submerge their whole heads in the water. People with long hair should tie it up or wear a cap to avoid possible entrapment by the suction inlets.

In order to minimize the risks associated with swimming, the Department of Public Health requires the state's 3,500 swimming pools and spas to meet water quality and safety standards. The department enforces these rules and regulations through plan approvals and inspections.

To prevent illnesses associated with swimming at Illinois beaches, each licensed beach is inspected annually to determine that required safety features are in place and there are no sources of possible pollution, such as sewage discharges. The Department of Public Health also requires that each of the 335 licensed public beaches (excluding Chicago beaches, which are regulated by the Chicago Park District) be sampled every two weeks to determine that bacterial levels in the water are within established limits.

Illinois residents can find additional summer safety, health and energy savings tips at or by calling 1 (877) 411-9276.

[News release]


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