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Swimming Safely

WRITTEN BY SHAINA ROGERS, D.O. | PHOTOS BY KELLY KUNTZ PHOTOGRAPHY

Hot summer days can be the perfect opportunity to enjoy one of Montana’s many beautiful bodies of water. While swimming is a great way to embrace the outdoors and move your body, it is important to reacquaint yourself with water safety measures before you take your next dip. These recommendations will ensure you and your family can safely enjoy all that Montana summer has to offer. Venturing into natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and ponds brings with it some unique water safety considerations. First, look for signs about closures for health or safety reasons. Contamination of local waterways can come from sewage, insecticides and other chemicals. After rainfall especially, polluted runoff can be carried into swimming areas. Stay out of the water if it looks cloudier than usual, is discolored or smells bad. These features could indicate the presence of harmful algal bloom. Drinking or swimming in water contaminated by harmful algal blooms and their associated toxins can make humans sick and can poison animals.1 2 Please be respectful and do your part to keep the environment and water clean. Pollution is also created by abandoned trash and from human and animal waste. Remember to take

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children for frequent bathroom breaks (every hour). For infants and toddlers, be sure that they are wearing waterproof diapers, and change their diapers every 30-60 minutes. If you are choosing to enjoy one of Montana’s rivers, it is critical that you consider the strength of the current. A current can be strong even if the water appears to be calm and slowmoving, and it can quickly sweep a child down the river. In addition to assessing the current, it is important to check the depth of the water and look for potential obstacles, such as rocks or debris. Children should always wear a life jacket in and around natural bodies of water, including when on a boat. Children without strong swimming skills should also wear one in the pool. Life jackets should be Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your child’s size and worn with all straps belted. 3 Regardless of where you are swimming this summer, there are other basic water safety measures to remember. Please stay out of the water if you have an open cut or wound (germs in the water could potentially infect your wound), and do your best to not swallow water while swimming. Please also refrain from swimming if you are sick, particularly if you have

diarrhea. Chlorination of pools helps decrease the potential for waterborne illness but it does not completely eliminate it. Be sure to wash your hands after getting out of the water before eating. If washing your hands is not possible, you can use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 4

Children should never swim alone. Ever. Children should always be closely

monitored while swimming. While it is tempting to take a few moments to read a book or be on your phone, it is important that you are not distracted or impaired if you are the designated adult watching children swim. When young children are swimming, an adult should be always within an arm’s reach. You can also consider having your child participate in swimming lessons; swimming lessons are a known protective factor against drowning. It is additionally critical that children are protected from the sun. This can include wearing clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) and wide-brimmed hats. It is best to keep babies younger than 6 months old out of direct sunlight. For children 6 months and older, you should apply a broad-spectrum

Profile for Montana Parent

2021 Summer Family Fun in Southwest Montana and Yellowstone  

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