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Warm weather brings water recreation safety concerns

With summer weather just around the corner, the Kitsap County Health District has issued a reminder to swimmers and other beach-goers about a few simple precautions — and some available information resources — to prevent water recreation injuries and waterborne illnesses.

In Washington state, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 17 and younger. Although swimming is a great way to stay physically active, everyone should follow the following safety rules to enjoy the water and reduce danger:

• keep children within immediate reach near any type of water;

• know your limits — drowning often happens when a person tires while swimming;

• wear a life jacket: When swimming anywhere without lifeguards or whenever you boat, jet ski, or do other water sports — by law, children ages 12 or younger must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or shorter;

• swim in areas that are lifeguarded; and,

• always avoid alcohol when swimming or boating.

Between May and September, the Health District monitors swimming beaches and other public access areas at 17 lakes and at nine marine swimming beaches in Kitsap County. These swimming beaches and access areas are monitored for levels of E. coli and enterococcus bacteria.

Sample results are compared with federal standards to determine if a beach can remain open for swimming.

Warning signs are posted at the swimming areas when there is an increased risk of waterborne illness from high bacteria levels.

Additional risks associated with recreational waters come from swimmer’s itch and toxic blue green algae exposure.

Historically, cases of swimmer’s itch have been reported at several lakes in Kitsap County.

To help prevent swimmer’s itch, use waterproof sunscreen before swimming and shower off or vigorously towel dry immediately after leaving the water.

Potentially toxic blue green algae blooms are a common occurrence in some Kitsap County lakes.

If a bloom is encountered, avoid ingesting lake water and avoid swimming and other water contact sports in areas where the algae bloom is concentrated.

Current beach closures, lake advisories, and shellfish harvesting advisories are available on the Health District’s (800) 2BE-WELL hotline or online at www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

The public is also advised to report cases of waterborne illnesses to the Health District so other people can be warned of any outbreaks.

To report a waterborne illness, swimmers itch, an algal bloom, or if there are questions about the Health District’s swimming beach monitoring program, call the Health District at (360) 337-5235, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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