By Johnny Jackson
Caswell Smith encouraged his granddaughters to have fun as they splashed about in the small pool.
Kelise Smith, 6, and Nya Franklin, 5, were the first to get into the water at the Heron Bay Aquatic Center. The two granddaughters were quickly joined by some 300 people, including dozens of other children, looking to take a break from 90-plus-degree temperatures, during a pool party at Heron Bay Golf Community and Country Club in Locust Grove.
The pool party, this past weekend, was sponsored by Heron Bay. It was a convenient, and cool, activity for Heron Bay residents, according to Kathy Grussing.
"It's just very community and family oriented," said Grussing, who was entertaining her sister, Patty Dalton, and 10-year-old niece, Christine Dalton, from Asheville, N.C.
As temperatures outside continue to rise, and area residents visit neighborhood swimming pools, officials with the Georgia Department of Community Health's (DCH) Division of Public Health are reminding residents to practice healthy swimming habits.
"All swimmers should take safety measures, and proper precautions, to reduce their risks of illness and injury at public swimming pools," said Scott Uhlich, director of DCH's Environmental Heath Program. "This is particularly important for parents to acknowledge, since children, as well as pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, are most at risk of recreational water illnesses."
Officials advise that adults never leave children unattended around bodies of water.
"Always have a watchful eye on children, and never allow them to go out swimming alone," said Henry County Fire Department Capt. Sabrina Puckett. "We encourage the buddy system, but more importantly, adult supervision. Never assume that somebody else is watching your child."
While swimming pools are equipped with a mechanical system to deliver a disinfectant, usually a form of chlorine, some germs may remain in the contaminated pools.
"We can't have any bodily fluids in the pool," said Jessica Aktabowski, lifeguard and pool manager at the Heron Bay Aquatic Center. "Our children have to wear swim diapers, if they're 4 and under."
Atkabowski said the aquatics center stays busy during the summer months, hosting some 300 residents each day during the week, and more than 500 on weekend days. The veteran lifeguard said horse play is a major concern for lifeguards. Small children, who might get away from their parents, also are a concern among pool patrons.
"It usually has to do with volume, because it's constantly busy here," she said. "I've never had anything serious, because in Red Cross training, our big thing is prevention. But, sometimes, kids get a false sense of confidence when they swim into the deeper end of the pool."
Atkabowski advises parents to remain vigilant of potential dangers around pools, and watch their children, in and out of the pool, to prevent recreational water illnesses.
DCH's Division of Public Health encourages residents to follow these helpful guidelines: Don't swim when you have diarrhea; avoid swallowing the pool water or even getting it in your mouth; practice good hygiene; take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often; change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area, not pool side; and wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before swimming.
For more safe swimming tips, visit DCH's Division of Public Health web site at http://health.state.ga.us/programs/envservices/pools.asp.