As the Westchester County pools will open for the season on Friday, June 24, County Executive Robert P. Astorino and Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, share water safety tips for residents and their families.
“Westchester County pools and beaches are staffed with trained lifeguards, but parents and guardians are the first line of defense for swim safety,” Astorino said. “Please watch your children when they are in or near the water, make sure they never swim alone and only swim a when a lifeguard is on duty.”
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury or death among children ages 1 to 4 years old and the second leading cause among children ages 5 to 9 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Westchester County’s Learn-to-Swim program is offered throughout the county at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers, Playland Pool in Rye and Saxon Woods Pool in White Plains. Swimming lessons are also offered at many YMCAs and at municipal pools.
“It’s also critical to always stay within arm’s reach of infants and toddlers in the water and to always keep your eyes on children playing in or near the shore,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Commissioner of Health. “Pool floats, inner tubes, water wings and noodles are no substitute for close supervision. Swimming and alcohol, just like boating and alcohol, don’t mix.”
The county beaches, which opened on May 28 on a weekends-only schedule, will begin a full summer schedule on Friday, June 24th as well. Beach goers should always take precautions to stay hydrated and protect their skin from the effects of the summer sun and from mosquitoes. To avoid mosquito bites, apply sunscreen first and EPA-registered insect repellent second.
“Be sure you and your family drink lots of water throughout the day at the pool or beach to avoid heat exhaustion,” said Amler. “Wear a hat and sunglasses, avoid the midday sun and reapply broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every two hours, especially after you swim or sweat, to avoid sunburn.”
- Take swim lessons if you don’t know how to swim. Sign your kids up for lessons as soon as they are old enough.
- Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.
- Swim near a lifeguard and never swim alone.
- Don't swim in pools or beaches that are closed.
- Don’t drink alcohol if you are swimming or watching children in the water.
- Use floating toys like water wings and noodles for fun – not for safety. Don’t use them in place of life jackets.
- Watch out for rip currents at the beach. A rip current is when the water pulls you away from shore. If you get caught in a rip current, never fight it. If you find yourself in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore and at an angle.
Watch children carefully
- Make sure at least one adult is watching when children are in or around the water. Never leave a child unattended.
- Designate a water watcher to supervise children. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smart phone, or otherwise be distracted.
- Watch all children in the water, even if they know how to swim.
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
- Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards. Ask your pool service provider about safe drain covers if you are unsure.
- If you have a pool, install 4-sided fencing that’s at least 4 feet high and separates the pool from the house or yard. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward and are out of reach of children.
Check water and weather conditions before going swimming
- Don’t swim in the ocean, lakes, or rivers after heavy rain. Water is more likely to be polluted after a rain storm.
- Check for signs or warnings about bacteria or other pollution in the water.
- Get out of the water right away if you hear thunder or see lightning. Strong winds can also be dangerous.
Protect yourself and others from germs in the water
- Try not to get water in your mouth.
- Make sure everyone is clean before swimming. Shower with soap. Wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area.
Protect your skin from the sun
- Wear plenty of sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
- Put on more sunscreen every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.
Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to infection with certain parasites of birds and mammals. These microscopic parasites are released from infected snails who swim in fresh and salt water, such as lakes, ponds, and oceans used for swimming and wading. Swimmer's itch generally occurs during the summer months.
Blue-Green Algae Bloom
Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers. Blue-green algae can form HABs that discolor the water or produce floating rafts or scums on the surface of the water. These can cause health risks to people and animals when they are exposed to them.
Blue-green algae blooms can occur in freshwater lakes and ponds and can reduce the recreational value of a waterbody, due to unpleasant appearances and odors, and can cause a variety of ecological problems, such as reduced oxygen levels. They also have the potential to form harmful (toxic) blue-green algal blooms, although the factors that cause blue-green algae to produce toxins are not well understood.
Harmful blue-green algae blooms can cause health effects when people and animals come in contact with them. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin or throat irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties. Blue-green algae can also produce toxins that affect the liver and nervous systems when water is consumed in sufficient quantities.
Tips for avoiding a recreational water illness:
Patrons should always practice good hygiene to avoid getting a recreational water-borne illness. It is important to shower before swimming or using spray park features and always wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on one's body may get into the water.
Patrons should never drink the water when swimming or using spray park features and should avoid getting water in their mouths to prevent potential illness. It is important to note that water at most spray parks is recycled and should not be consumed.
Patrons must never use spray park features, swimming pools or beaches when they have diarrhea. This is especially important for infants and toddlers in diapers. This may spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
Patrons with children should take them for bathroom breaks and/or check their diapers often. Children's diapers should be changed in a bathroom and not near spray park features, swimming pools or beach areas to prevent the spread of germs and illness.
- If you are a pool owner, protect your family and friends. Learn about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act aimed at preventing drain entrapments of children.
- Protect your family at the pool this summer (CDC)
- Pool User Tips (CDC)
- EPA Survey of Beach info