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Dr Duncan

Backyard water safety

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Summers are hot in Western Australia - right? …… But THIS hot?
Heat Cartoon
We’ve all been horrified by the catastrophic destruction caused by the recent bush fires, and we shudder to think of the desolation of those who have literally lost everything in these devastating blazes. Yet the heat still rolls on with the almost certain promise of more to come - and we’re not even into February which can often be the hottest month! So it’s not really surprising that just about everyone’s been struggling: from our fantastic Fire Service people who are literally putting their lives on the line for us every day, to the mums and dads at home who face many more weeks of school holidays and housebound kids who can’t  even go outside to play!

Most young families can find it hard to think of different ways to keep their kids cool and yet occupied at the same time and for most, the obvious answer is a trip to the pool or the beach - in fact, anything that involves water! But you don’t always have to leave home to get wet! All of us can remember the simple pleasures of just running through the sprinkler in the backyard and screaming with delight. However, even such simple pleasures can come with hidden dangers, which if we are all aware of, can easily be avoided and everyone can “Keep their Cool”!

Inflatable pools
Inflatable pool 
These are a joy for kids and an answer to prayers for fraught parents. You can buy them at department stores and even hardware stores, and you blow them up and you fill ‘em up with water from the hose pipe! Simple eh? 
Well, yes and no.

Yes they are simple to get up and running in a very short time: but they can also pose some hazards, other than the obvious risk of children being unattended around the water. There are a number of health hazards if the water isn’t cared for properly. 

Most of these inflatable pools are for toddlers, and not all toddlers have the most pristine personal habits. In other words the pool water can become contaminated with faecal material which has the potential to infect other children who drink that water! Such contaminated water can cause Gastro-enteritis, ear and eye infections. 
So some simple hygiene hints:

  • Kids with diarrhoea should not swim.
  • Keep reminding the little ones to go to the toilet frequently: they’re often having such a great time, they can often forget “to go”.
  • If you are taking a baby in the water who is not potty-trained, use a nappy specifically designed for swimming in. And change nappies well away from the pool area.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing nappies.
  • Make a rule for all children NOT TO DRINK THE WATER!
  • Keep the swimming water clean by showering with soap before entering the pool - and shower off after swimming too.
  • Empty the pool at the end of the day - even better: recycle it onto the flower beds and herb garden.

But it’s not just the inflatable pool that can pose problems. Even a hose pipe may be “dangerous”. With the daytime temperatures being in the high 30’s and the night time temperatures being in the low to mid 20’s, the water left in a hosepipe can prove ideal breeding ground for organisms that can be lethal to humans. Amoebic meningitis is caused by contaminated water being squirted up the nose with potentially fatal results. So make sure that hosepipes are put safely away once they’ve been used, and let them run for a couple of minutes into the garden before the children start to play with it. 

Whilst we humans struggle with the unpleasant heat and seek the sanctuary of cool water, there are other creatures who might have the same idea as we do: particularly our reptilian friends! Frogs love water, and snakes like to eat frogs almost as much as they like to sip the cool water too! So just be aware that when you go to your backyard pool, check to see if there are any uninvited “guests”. And if there are - be gentle with them because they’re struggling with the heat too, and call the appropriate authorities.

One other bothersome creature loves water too - and it also likes to keep us awake at night buzzing in our ears, or even worse, sucking our blood! And depending on where you live, not only do they suck your blood, they can also leave some very unwelcome organisms behind in your blood! I’m talking about Mozzies. 
Mosquitoes breed by laying eggs in standing water, so any pool, pond, or just a tray filled with water can be a potential breeding ground for these annoying creatures. So check your backyard, garden, verandah for any areas where water might remain and tip it out. Inflatable pools should be emptied each night and refilled in the morning for hygiene purposes, but there’s nothing like a disturbed night’s sleep due to a buzzing mozzy to help remind you to do that!



Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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