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Spending time outdoors around water and in swimming pools is a great way to stay active and healthy during the summer season in Montana.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), along with local health authorities, want to remind Montanans to stay safe while having fun in the water this summer, and to be aware of the related health and safety risks.

Over the past 10 years, there have been an average of 20 unintentional drowning deaths per year in Montana. Almost 50 percent of the drownings occurred in natural water, while others occurred at home or in swimming pools.

“Every day in the U.S., two children younger than 14 years old die from downing,” said Maureen Ward, DPHHS Injury Prevention Program Manager. “Drownings are a leading cause of death for children aged one to four.”

Ward said parents and guardians 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 Coast Guard-approved life jackets around natural waters, and always provide constant supervision when kids are near water, including bathtubs.

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

Water recreation can also cause illness from parasites that live in the water. In 2018, 170 cases of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis were reported in Montana. Of those with risk factors reported, 51 percent had recreational water exposure or drank untreated water in the days before they became ill.

These parasites can cause illness when someone swims in and ingests water contaminated by an ill individual or infected animal – this can happen in natural water sources as well as swimming pools. “In order to stay healthy and limit disease transmission, avoid swimming when you have diarrhea, and don’t swallow pool, river or lake water,” says DPHHS epidemiologist Rachel Hinnenkamp.

When enjoying water this summer, DPHHS offers the following safety tips:

•Shower with soap before entering pool.

•Avoid swimming 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.

For more information on healthy swimming, please visit the DPHHS website at https://dphhs.mt.gov/.

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