With Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, and kids nationwide counting the days until summer vacation, it's a great time to make sure pools and spas are as safe as possible for kids. Parents and caregivers should also learn how to prevent Recreational Water Illness (RWI) outbreaks that can be caused by swimming in public pools, water parks, rivers, and lakes.
Pool Safety Hazards. Swimming pools pose a special hazard for very young children, even kids that know how to swim. Every year, about 300 children under the age of five drown in swimming pools, according to the CPSC, and the suction from pool and spa drains can even trap small children under water.
To prevent these kinds of accidents, installing physical barriers -- fences, gates, walls, and power safety covers -- around and over pools and spas is the key. For above-ground pools, steps and ladders should be removed or secured when the pool is not in use. And generally, alarms should be used on doors that lead directly from the house to the pool.
Recreational Water Illness (RWIs). RWIs can spread by swallowing, breathing, or just coming into contact with contaminated water in pools, spas, and natural bodies of water. RWIs can cause gastrointestinal problems, and irritations of skin, ears, eyes, and the respiratory system.
Parents and kids should make sure water in public pools and water parks is clean, clear, and free of strong chemical smells. You can also ask pool operators about proper chlorine and pH levels (or if it's your pool, ensure these levels yourself).
Kids should be taught to avoid swallowing pool water, to shower before swimming and wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, and to take frequent bathroom breaks to avoid having an accident in the pool.
Learn more about Recreational Water Illness from the CDC: Healthy Swimming | Recreational Water Illness Awareness Week, May 18-24