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Published: June, 2020; Vol 17, Num 1

 

Practicing COVID-19 (and Sun) Safety in the Water This Summer

With stay-at-home restrictions lifted or soon to expire across much of the U.S., many people are asking themselves a similar question: “When is it safe to cool off at the beach, pool or lake without worrying about coronavirus?”. The answer is mostly good news (with a few caveats).

First, there’s no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through water, and it appears that chlorine and bromine, the two chemicals primarily used to disinfect pools and hot tubs, kill the virus. So feel free to enjoy a dip in the water, but continue to maintain your distance from people who don’t live in your household. Coming in contact with a person’s spit or respiratory droplets while you’re both standing in a pool is no different than that same contact happening on dry land.

Most of the risk associated with the pool or beach isn’t from being in the water – it’s from being in crowded spaces next to the water and using common areas and items. Some beaches and pools are taking action to address this, such as changing the layout of lounge chairs, restricting access to a set number of people or asking people to stay for a limited amount of time when the area is at capacity. If you arrive and it’s too crowded for you to maintain your social distance, make the safe decision and go elsewhere.

Follow these other tips and best practices to enjoy yourself in the water this summer:

Do:

  • Continue to wear a face covering out of the water, especially when social distancing is difficult, such as in restrooms, at food stands, etc. 
  • Bring your own water toys and chairs if possible. Community or rented items may not be disinfected between uses. If you do use their items, bring your own disinfectant wipes.
  • Put on your swimsuit at home to avoid changing in a locker room or bathroom.
  • Continue to practice frequent handwashing and good hygiene practices. Avoid spitting or blowing your nose in the water.

Don’t:

  • Wear a face covering in the water. Cloth face coverings are difficult to breathe through when wet.
  • Swim, wade or play within six feet of people who don’t live in your household.
  • Share goggles, masks or other gear that touches your face.
  • Move chairs or seating designed to maintain distance within groups.

Click here for the steps and procedures the CDC recommends public venues with pools, hot tubs and playgrounds take to limit risk during reopening.

Keeping Sun Safety in Mind

With all the focus on taking steps to stop COVID-19, it can be easy to forget another constant summer risk – the sun. Along with your disinfectant wipes, don’t forget to bring your sunscreen, sunglasses and hat to reduce your skin cancer risk. Seek shade or bring a lightweight long-sleeve shirt or wrap to cover up and prevent too much sun exposure. If you’re spending a lot of time in the water, be sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day (about every two hours).

Taking these simple steps can help keep you from being one of the almost 10,000 people who are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the U.S. A recent study found that 75 percent of people agreed that protecting their skin from the sun was important for their health, but only 41 percent said they regularly practice sun safety. You can help close this gap by covering your skin this summer, wearing sunscreen on skin that’s exposed to the sun and throwing on a hat and sunglasses.

[Nick Fox]