July 4, 2008

Following Swim Rules Will Avoid Fatalities

By Keith Purtell, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

Jul. 4--Ed Fite wants everyone to enjoy swimming in the state's water resources, yet be safe, he said.

There are several rules that will help people accomplish that, the said, listing hints from wearing life jackets to ear plugs.

"If people will adhere to those rules, there will be a lot less accidents and fatalities," Fite, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission administrator, said. "Unfortunately, people will get out there and do something they should not, and we will have a fatality this weekend."

Fite said he has a short motto that he tries to get people to use:

"Swim smart from the start, and wear a personal flotation device."

He said the state's water resources are there to be appreciated.

"The weekend is a good time to get out and enjoy them," he said. "If everyone adheres to those safety tips, they should be OK."

With the July Fourth holiday, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality also wants to remind Oklahomans to be cautious while visiting the state's lakes, rivers and streams.

Certain bacteria, viruses and protozoa can be present in bodies of water. Some of the microorganisms occur naturally while others are carried into surface waters from a variety of sources. Some of these microorganisms are harmful and can cause mild problems such as ear infection, swimmers itch, intestinal diseases, or relatively rare but serious conditions such as eye infections and some forms of meningitis.

When swimming in untreated water during the holiday and throughout the summer, here are some steps to take to reduce exposure to waterborne microorganisms:

--Wash open skin cuts and scrapes with clean water and soap immediately after swimming.

--Wear ear plugs to prevent ear infections.

--Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets).

--Stay away from any area that has floating debris, stagnant water, oil sheens or dead fish.

Swimmers should be aware of blue green algae and cryptosporidium as well. When waters are heated and stagnant, the risk for exposure will increase.

Swim safety tips

--Always wear a personal flotation device, even if you're only within 10 feet of the water.

--Never swim or boat alone; always use the buddy system.

--Wear protective footwear to prevent cutting your foot on a piece of glass or other unexpected object.

--Take a break when you're tired.

--Take a thirst quencher like water; remember that alcohol dehydrates the body.

--Never dive headfirst from a bridge, tree or bluff. You don't know how shallow the water is or what might be underneath the surface.

--If boating, be sure that if you flip over, don't get trapped between the boat and a solid object. Stay upstream from the boat.

--Respect the rights of fishermen and private property owners.

--Be sure to take sunscreen lotion with you, as well as a long-sleeved shirt and some type of wide-brimmed hat.

--Pack out what you pack in. When you get back from your swim outing, you can properly dispose of food wrappers and cans.

--Be alert to the weather; with thunderstorms comes lightning.

--Don't swallow the water.

--Don't swim in water that has a green surface scum.

--Don't swim if you have cuts or scrapes.

--Use swim diapers with infants.

--Take children to the restroom frequently.

--Wear swim goggles.

--Wear ear plugs.

--Hold your nose or use nose plugs when jumping into water.

--Make sure that your life jacket fits properly.

--Shower with soap and water after swimming.

Source: Ed Fite, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission

Reach Keith Purtell at 918-684-2925 or Click Here to Send Email


To see more of the Muskogee Phoenix or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.muskogeephoenix.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.