State urges Hoosiers to use caution in water

WLFI Photo
WLFI Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) — The warmth may be finally sticking around, which means swimming season. The Indiana Department of Health is reminding Hoosiers to be careful in the water this season.

This week, May 19 to 25, is Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week. The State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. said the latest state mortality report showed 81 deaths due to accidental drowning or submersion.

VanNess said not a single person in Indiana should die from drowning.

“It’s a preventable tragedy,” VanNess told News 18 in a release. “This summer, let’s look out for one another while enjoying the water. Let’s keep a close eye on the kids and make sure that pools are enclosed when possible and kids know not to get in the water unless an adult is present.”

According to a study released Thursday by the CDC, nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012 were caused by mishandling pool chemicals or too much sun exposure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports each year thousands of Americans get sick from germs in waterways or are injured while they swim.

The CDC reports recreational water illnesses are spread by ingesting, inhaling or having skin contact with contaminated water. Though contaminated water can cause serious problems such as skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections, the most commonly reported illness is diarrhea.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while swimming:

  • Be sure to have a flotation safety device, like a life preserver or a vest, nearby
  • Always obey swimming rules at the pool, lake or other body of water
  • Don’t swim where prohibited and never swim alone

Help prevent the spread of water illnesses by the following tips:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea
  • Don’t swallow pool water
  • Practice good hygiene—shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers often
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside
  • Wash children thoroughly with soap and water before they swim

The State Department of Health reminds residents to contact a healthcare provider if you begin experiencing symptoms that may be related to water play, including: stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, muscle weakness or difficulty breathing.

In addition, Health officials also said avoid contact with blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, at many of Indiana’s reservoirs, lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams.

Officials said the algae grows because the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen from fertilizers. The algae appears as “mats” of scum floating on the surface. Individuals and pets should be washed thoroughly after any contact with the algae.

If you would like to learn more about the blue-green algae, click here.

For further information on healthy swimming, click here.

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health for more information on health and safety for you and your family. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, off topic, or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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