ALLIE DOUGLASS | The Sun
Gavin Norsworthy (left), 11, and Ethan Casada (far right), 12, wait in line at the diving board in Noble Park on June 20th. The park pool welcomes 150 to 200 visitors on a busy day, and safety is a priority for swimmers of all ages.
Summer draws everyone to the water, and many of us aren’t lucky enough to have a pool in our own backyards. It’s time to enjoy the local pool or water park, but before you take the plunge, consider a few tips to keep your family safe during the hottest part of the year.
John Gorrell, the recreation specialist for the pool at Noble Park, said their biggest safety concerns are horseplay and refusing to listen to lifeguards.
“You just want to have fun and you get to goofing off, and next thing you know, it could turn into something bad. You could be distracting the guard from focusing on someone else who might not be as strong a swimmer,” Gorrell said.
Swimmers should remember that lifeguards work to prevent emergencies before they happen, and following their instructions is the best way to make sure everyone stays safe.
However, lifeguards can only do so much. Many adults looking for much-needed relaxation stop paying attention when they think others are looking out for danger, said Andrea York, the park manager at Venture River in Eddyville.
“I think that because there are lifeguards on duty, parents tend to feel safer and not watch their children as closely,” York said.
This could be dangerous, as the Center for Disease Control ranks drowning as the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, and children between the ages of 1 and 4 have the highest risk, according to cdc.gov.
Lifeguards can help, but parents shouldn’t stop there. Parks like Venture River have large crowds, and though most parks employ lifeguards who have been certified by the American Red Cross, parents must do their part to watch children and keep them in working life vests.
While you’re on the alert, take a moment to check out the quality of the water, too. Can you see the bottom of the pool clearly? Are the sides clean, and can you hear the filters working?
Asking yourself these questions could keep you from getting sick this summer, according to the Center for Disease Control. Any body of water, whether or not it contains chlorine, could harbor germs that cause recreational water illnesses, or RWIs. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea, but skin, ear, and eye infections are also possible.
RWIs are spread through contact with contaminated water, and the risk may be higher in public pools because more people use them. The CDC reports that outbreaks of RWIs have been steadily increasing for the past two decades, but with fewer than 100 reports of RWIs nationwide every year, the illnesses are cause for action, not alarm.
To help prevent the risk of waterborne infections, avoid swimming when you are sick, particularly if you have a stomach bug. Make sure you shower with soap before you hit the pool, and take care to keep diaper-aged infants clean. Watch for cloudy water, but remember that bacteria and other contaminants may be present even when you can see to the bottom of the pool.
In order to reduce the chances of becoming ill, outfit infants with swimming diapers and monitor children to make sure they do not swallow water.
When visitors do their part to observe pool conditions and follow regulations, public pools and water parks are more fun for everyone. To stay informed about preventative measures against illness and accidents, visit cdc.gov or call your local park with questions.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.