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Enjoy water but be safe


May 24, 2016

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

   Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391


DPHHS: Enjoy fun in the water this summer, but be safe

Agency reports average of 20 people drown in Montana each year


The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) would like to encourage everyone to stay healthy and safe while having fun in the water this summer.

The week before Memorial Day (May 23–29, 2016) is Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. The goal of this week is to maximize the health benefits of swimming by promoting healthy and safe swimming.

Just 2.5 hours of water-based, or other forms of physical activity per week, has health benefits for everyone, but we all play a role in preventing illnesses and injuries linked to the water we share and swim in, this summer and year-round.

Contrary to popular belief, drowning can happen quickly and silently. In the short amount of time it takes to go grab a towel, about 10 seconds, a child can become submerged. A child can lose consciousness during a 2-minute phone call. If left for even five minutes, a submerged child can sustain permanent brain damage or die. Each year an average of 20 people drown in Montana, most occurring in natural waters. Inadequate supervision was determined to be a factor in more than 60% of drowning deaths of children less than 16 years of age.

“Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4,” says Jeremy Brokaw, Montana Injury Prevention Program Coordinator, “But these deaths can be prevented by following safe swimming recommendations such as active adult supervision, ensuring barriers such as fences, gates and alarms surround pools and hot tubs, taking swim lessons and CPR classes, using life jackets in natural waters and making sure appropriate life saving devices are available at swimming pools.”

In addition to injuries, illnesses can spread in the water we share. In 2015, more than 100 people in Montana became sick with waterborne illness like Cryptosporidium or Giardia. More than half of them reported swimming in the days before they became ill. DPHHS advises people experiencing a diarrheal illness should stay out of pools or spas, all swimmers should shower before using pools and spas, and never swallow the water. And, children should take bathroom breaks and/or have their diapers checked every hour to help keep germs away from the pool.

“Summer is on its way and with the warm weather comes opportunities for families to have fun and enjoy our public pools,” says Erik Leigh, DPHHS Pool Sanitarian. “We take many steps to make sure we provide a safe environment for people to have fun and get exercise in the water, but it is important to follow the pool rules and parents need to play an active role in supervising their children in order to keep everyone safe.”

Montanans are urged to follow these 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 http://dphhs.mt.gov/