HELENA – Warmer weather and longer days have many folks itching to get into the water to take a swim. State and local health officials are offering up some tips on how you can stay safe and healthy while taking a dip to cool off.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports there were 11 drowning deaths last year in Montana. Six of the drownings occurred in natural water while others occurred at home or were the result of medical events or accidents leading to drowning.

“Nationally, drownings are a leading cause of injury deaths for children aged 1 to 14,” DPHHS Injury Prevention Program Manager Jeremy Brokaw said. “Parents can play a key role in protecting children by taking these steps: learn life-saving skills such as CPR and basic swim instructions, fence off swimming pools, always use life jackets around natural waters, and always be on the lookout when kids are near water, including bathtubs.”

Brokaw adds that because drownings happen quickly and quietly adults should avoid distractions when supervising children near water and should always keep the kids in their line of sight.

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Water recreation can also result in the risk of becoming ill. In 2017, public health authorities tracked 195 cases of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis in Montana, 28% of whom had exposure to recreational water before they became ill.

“In order to prevent illness in yourself and others, don’t swim when you have diarrhea, and don’t swallow pool, river, or lake water,” advised DPHHS epidemiologist Rachel Hinnenkamp.

DPHHS offers up the following water safety tips:

  • Shower with soap before entering pool
  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea
  • Don’t swallow pool, river or lake 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
  • Learn life-saving skills such as CPR
  • Use life vests when recreating in natural waters
  • Avoid distractions such as alcohol, drugs, or cell phone use around water

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