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DPHHS: Enjoy fun in the water, but be safe

Agency sponsoring poster contest

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is sending an important message to elementary school children this month: play it safe while out enjoying fun in the water this summer.

To help reinforce this message, DPHHS recently sent educational materials to all Montana elementary schools to help children learn more about water-related illness and injuries.

DPHHS is also sponsoring a poster contest so children can creatively illustrate what they learned from the outreach materials. Numerous prizes will be awarded for the best posters, which will also be printed and displayed at local swimming pools throughout Montana.

“We know that Montanans are excited for summer, but water-related illness and injury can sure put a damper on that fun,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “Montana has endless lakes, rivers and public swimming pools to enjoy, but Montanans just need to remember to play it safe.”

Every year thousands of Americans get sick after recreating in water due to ingestion of germs found in places where people swim. Cryptosporidium, or crypto, is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among people in the United States. Last summer, there was a large increase in crypto cases in Montana; many cases involved young children who spent time at pools and splash parks.

“People need to be aware that chlorine may not kill germs instantly,” said Melanie Shaw of the DPHHS Food and Consumer Safety Section, which oversees the licensing and inspection of public swimming pools. “We all share the water we swim in, and we each need to do our part to keep ourselves, families, and friends healthy.”

Educational videos are available at: www.dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/rwii/

Drowning deaths are also a major concern in Montana’s lakes and rivers. Most drowning deaths occur between June and August and in natural bodies of water. Montana averages 8 deaths per year due to drowning. In the U.S., two children under the age of 14 die from drowning every day.

“Summer in Montana for so many includes swimming and boating at one of our many rivers and lakes,” Shaw said. “For the most part, people are able to safely enjoy these activities. However, every year there are drowning deaths. We want to remind people to stay safe and prevent another tragedy from occurring.”

Here are a few simple lifesaving tips to stay safe this summer:
   • Learn life-saving skills. Everyone should know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
   • Make life jackets a “must.” Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as rivers or lakes, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
   • Be on the lookout. When kids are in or near water (including bathtubs), closely supervise them at all times. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, or using alcohol or drugs.

To help protect yourself and other swimmers from germs, here are a few simple and effective steps all swimmers can take to stay healthy:
   • Shower with soap before entering the pool.
   • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
   • Don’t swallow pool water.
   • Take children on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30-60 minutes.
   • Supervise swimmers, especially young and inexperienced ones. Be a role model for others.
   • Use life vests where applicable.
   • Avoid alcohol and drugs while swimming.

For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.dphhs.mt.gov

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