Summer’s Here! Get Tips for Water Safety, Zika Prevention

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

School’s out for the summer, which means your kids are about to have free rein over your house, property, the pool and goodness knows what else for the next several weeks.

DoD graphic by Regina Ali

DoD graphic by Regina Ali

While that’s great for them, there are a lot of problems that can crop up – mainly, them forgetting the rules and thinking they’re invincible – so you’ll probably want to go over some summer safety tips with them before you set them loose upon the world, or your neighborhood … or wherever.

Here’s the first of three blogs we’ll be posting this week on summer safety. Today’s topics: Water safety and protecting against mosquito bites and the Zika virus.

Water Safety:

Pools, the beach, lakes, sprinklers, water parks – you name it, a lot of summer activities involve water. But water fun comes with a lot of safety concerns, too.

Lifeguard Chloe Rickards checks chemical levels in a sample of pool water against a scale at the outdoor pool on Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Frequent tests are performed daily on the adult and children’s pools to ensure the safety and sanitation of the water. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Morris

Lifeguard Chloe Rickards checks chemical levels in a sample of pool water against a scale at the outdoor pool on Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Frequent tests are performed daily on the adult and children’s pools to ensure the safety and sanitation of the water. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Morris

First things first: Make sure the water your kids are playing in is sanitary. While this is more obvious for lakes, rivers and oceans, it’s also important to check swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks and communal play fountains, because while you might think chlorine kills all germs right away, it doesn’t. A pool with the correct pH and disinfectant levels should kill most germs within an hour, according to the CDC, but some germs, like Crypto, can take days to die.

If you’re going to your installation’s pool or a public one:

  • Stay out of the water if you’re sick or have an open wound. If you can, rinse off in a shower for a quick minute to get rid of any dirt or grime that might be on you.
  • Check the pool’s most recent inspection results to see if it’s being kept up to regulation standards.
  • Make sure the pool’s drain is visible and in good shape.
  • Check to see if a lifeguard is on duty; if not, there should be a “no lifeguard on duty” sign posted.

If you have your own pool: Do the same things as above, but also monitor its chlorine level regularly.

If you’re on a boat or around open bodies of water: Always make sure your child is in a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Noodles, water wings and other swim aides are meant for fun, not for safety, so don’t rely on them for the same protection.

Youth learn basic swimming skills at Fort Stewart’s Bryan Village Pool during swim camp. Children were taught fundamental swimming techniques during the two-week class. Army photo by Renee Reese

Youth learn basic swimming skills at Fort Stewart’s Bryan Village Pool during swim camp. Children were taught fundamental swimming techniques during the two-week class. Army photo by Renee Reese

Make sure you know your child’s swimming ability level. If you plan on having your kids near water any time of year, you should look into getting them swim lessons. You can find lessons near you by contacting your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation office.

Parents should also always have a basic knowledge of life-saving skills, like CPR, just in case something goes wrong. Many military hospitals and fire stations offer CPR classes for free, so check with the ones nearest you for more information.

For more info on specific safety tips for boating, water parks and rivers, click here.

Mosquitos/Zika:

The Aedes Aegypi mosquito is one of two found in tropical climate countries which is capable of carrying the Zika virus. It is not native to the U.S. but has been found in 12 of California’s 58 counties. The mosquitoes are transported into this country by visitors and residents. Marine Corps photo by Keith Hayes, courtesy of CDC’s James Gathany

The Aedes Aegypi mosquito is one of two found in tropical climate countries which is capable of carrying the Zika virus. It is not native to the U.S. but has been found in 12 of California’s 58 counties. The mosquitoes are transported into this country by visitors and residents. Marine Corps photo by Keith Hayes, courtesy of CDC’s James Gathany

If you haven’t heard about the Zika virus by now … well, you’ve possibly been living under a rock. It’s a mosquito-borne illness that originated in South America and has since made its way to dozens of U.S. states (check to see if yours is one of them here). Zika can cause standard flu-like symptoms which are rarely fatal, but the big concern is that it can cause a rare birth defect in pregnant women.

It’s a concern in the DoD because there’s currently no cure or vaccine for Zika, and since our troops are stationed all over the world, there’s a chance they could contract it. Your children could get infected, too, if they play anywhere with infected mosquitoes.

So how do you combat Zika? Pretty much as you would any other mosquito – with bug repellents, by wearing long sleeves and by avoiding mosquito-ridden places. These tactics also work to fend off the West Nile Virus that’s been more prevalent in the U.S. the past couple of years.

If you or your family will be traveling overseas any time soon, check on Zika’s status in that country at state.gov.

While prevention can only go so far, surveillance is a huge priority for the DoD. Here’s a pretty cool video on what DoD scientists are doing to combat the virus and enhance surveillance to make sure it affects as few service members as possible.

Be sure to check back on DoDLive later this week for more tips about heat and sun safety, how to deal with fireworks, camping safety and sports and recreation tips.

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