The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

State, local health officials promote safe swimming tips


June 20, 2018

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and local public health partners are reminding Montanans to stay safe and healthy while having fun in the water this summer. Swimming can be a fun way to spend time outdoors in the summer heat and is a great source of exercise, but it does pose some health and safety risks.

In 2017, 11 drowning deaths occurred 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,” says Jeremy Brokaw, DPHHS Injury Prevention Program Manager. “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.

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.

These protozoa can cause illness when someone swims in and ingests water contaminated by an ill individual or infected animal and can happen in natural water sources as well as swimming pools. “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,” says DPHHS epidemiologist Rachel Hinnenkamp.

When enjoying water this summer, DPHHS offers the following 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

For more information on healthy swimming, please visit the DPHHS website at


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