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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

May 22, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

DPHHS: Enjoy fun in the water, but be safe

The Department of Public Health and Human Services is reminding Montanans to be safe and stay healthy this upcoming Memorial Day weekend and throughout summer while out enjoying fun in the water.  

Drowning deaths are most common in Montana between June and August and are more likely to occur in natural bodies of water. Montana averages 8 deaths per year due to drowning in natural waters. Every day, two children under the age of 14 die from drowning in the United States.

“Summer in Montana for so many includes swimming and boating at one of our many rivers and lakes,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “For the most part, people are able to safely enjoy these activities. However, every year there are drowning deaths. Let’s all be safe this summer and take the necessary steps to prevent another tragedy.”

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, and using alcohol or drugs.

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are also a concern, DPHHS officials say. Every year, thousands of Americans get sick with RWIs, which are caused by germs found in places where people swim. Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.

On average, Montana has about 60 cases of cryptosporidiosis a year with a seasonal peak during summer months. The most extreme outbreak in recent years occurred in 2006 when two cryptosporidiosis outbreaks were associated with recreational water, in particular splash parks, sickening over 180 people.

“People need to be aware that chlorine and other pool water treatments don’t 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, our families, and our friends healthy.”

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 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.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/

Page last updated 05/22/2013