Swimming Safety Tips: This is Healthy & Safe Swimming Week

Modified: May 22, 2017 4:25pm

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From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein

Date: May 22, 2017                                 

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Swimming Safety Tips


ERIE COUNTY, NY—Healthy and Safe Swimming Week focuses on simple steps swimmers and pool operators can take to help ensure a healthy and safe swimming experience for everyone. It focuses on preventing drowning, avoiding injuries from pool chemicals, and preventing outbreaks of illnesses. It highlights swimmer hygiene and the need for swimmers to take an active role in helping to protect themselves and prevent the spread of germs.Banner

“The goal of Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is to maximize the health benefits of water-based physical activity while minimizing the risk of recreational water–associated illness and injury,” stated Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health (“ECDOH”). “We all share the water we swim in, and we each need to do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and our friends healthy.”

Recreational water illnesses (“RWIs”) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols, or contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, play areas, fountains, creeks, rivers or lakes. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.Poster

Diarrhea is the most common RWI. It is often caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, norovirus, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7. Other common RWIs include skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for RWIs.

Parents and caregivers of children of all ages need to take the necessary precautions to ensure summer swimming fun remains safe. Here are simple and effective steps to take when you swim to protect your health and the health of your family:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower before you get in the water.
  • Do not substitute the pool for the toilet
  • Do not swallow the water
  • Every hour—everyone out!
    • Take kids on bathroom breaks
    • Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool

“The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) estimates that each year, nearly 300 children younger than five years drown in swimming pools and spas and an additional 4,000 children that age present to hospital emergency departments for non-fatal submersion injuries. An unknown number of these hospitalizations result in permanent disability, including brain damage. These deaths and injuries are entirely preventable,” said Dr. Burstein.

Follow these water safety steps to help keep everyone safe:

Stay Close, Be Alert and Watch

1.         Never leave a child unattended in or near a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.
2.         Designate a Water Watcher to supervise children in the pool or spa. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smart phone or be otherwise distracted. Adults can take turns being a Water Watcher.
3.         Teach children basic water safety tips.
4.         If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
5.         Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
6.         Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal standards (if you do not know, ask your pool service provider whether the covers are in compliance)
7.         Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
8.         Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
9.         Install a four-foot or taller fence around the perimeter of the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools.
10.          Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
11.          Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats or a reaching pole available and easily accessible.

“Adding a few extra safety steps in and around pools and spas can make all the difference,” concluded Burstein. These steps will help you minimize risk of illness while maximizing the health benefits and swimming enjoyment. Healthy swimming is not just about the steps the pool operators and pool inspectors take—so let’s all do our part to help keep ourselves, our families, and our friends healthy this summer and year round.

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For More Information:

ECDOH Swimming and Recreational Water Safety


Centers for Disease Control and Protection (“CDC”) – Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

CDC – Healthy Swimming Brochure

Recreational Water Illnesses

Frequently Requested



Phone: (716) 858-7690

Fax: (716) 858-8701

Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202

ECDOH Locations