NH DHHS Recognizes Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week

Concord, NH – May 21-27 is Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII)

Prevention Week. The goal of this observance is to raise awareness about

healthy and safe swimming behaviors, including ways to prevent recreational

water illnesses and injuries. This year the campaign is focusing on

drowning prevention and the importance of swimmer education. The New

Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of

Public Health Services is encouraging everyone to enjoy all the Granite

State has to offer but to do so safely.

Recreational water illnesses are caused by germs spread by swallowing,

breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated

water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas,

interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Recreational water

illnesses can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that

evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems.

Recreational water injuries can be caused by tripping, falling, and of

course drowning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2007

there were 3,443 fatal, unintentional drownings (non-boating related) in

the United States, averaging ten deaths per day. An additional 496 people

died from drowning in boating-related incidents. In the past ten years,

there have been, on average, 11 drowning deaths per year in New Hampshire.

Most of the deaths occur in natural bodies of water, such as lakes and

rivers, not in swimming pools.

“Any accidental death is heart-breaking,” said Dr. José Montero, Director

of Public Health at DHHS, “but they are especially sad when a child is

involved. Children love playing in the water and it is a great form of

exercise and entertainment, but we need to use abundant caution to make

sure no one gets hurt. New Hampshire has much to offer in the summer

especially its lakes, rivers, and ocean, so we want to encourage people to

get outdoors and enjoy, but to do so safely.”

Certain factors influence drowning risk:

Lack of Supervision and Barriers. Supervision by a lifeguard or

designated water-watcher is the most important way to protect young

children when they are in the water, whether a pool or bathtub. But

when children are not supposed to be in the water, supervision alone

isn’t enough to keep them safe.

Barriers such as pool fencing should be used to help prevent young

children from gaining access to the pool area without caregivers’

awareness. There is an 83% reduction in the risk of childhood

drowning with a four-sided isolation pool fence, compared with

three-sided property-line fencing.

Among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occur in

residential swimming pools. Most young children who drowned in

pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than

five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the


Lack of Life Jacket Use in Recreational Boating. Among those who drowned

across the United States, 9 out of 10 were not wearing a life jacket.

In New Hampshire, it is a law that children 12 and younger wear a

life jacket when on a boat. Most boating fatalities that occurred

during 2008 (72%) were caused by drowning, with 90% of victims not

wearing life jackets; the remainder were due to trauma, hypothermia,

carbon monoxide poisoning, or other causes. Hypothermia is

particularly important to be aware of in New Hampshire, especially in

the spring and early summer, because of our colder natural bodies of


Alcohol Use. Alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and

adult deaths associated with water recreation and about one in five

reported boating fatalities. Alcohol influences balance,

coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun

exposure and heat.

Seizure Disorders. For persons with seizure disorders, drowning is the

most common cause of unintentional injury death, with the bathtub as

the site of highest drowning risk.

Safe Kids New Hampshire serves as a hub for communication and collaboration

for people and organizations in the State who are interested in preventing

unintentional childhood injuries, including those in the water. Safe Kids

New Hampshire provides educational materials to the public as well as

barriers to preventing drowning. For example, there is a lifejacket loaner

station on the Merrimack River in Concord. “The station provides

lifejackets free of charge for boaters on the Merrimack who may have

forgotten or do not own one,” says Jim Esdon, Program Manager at the Injury

Prevention Center at Dartmouth, the facilitator of Safe Kids New Hampshire.

For information about Safe Kids New Hampshire, visit


For more information about recreational water illness prevention, visit the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/rwi-prevent.html . For more

information about drowning prevention, visit

www.cdc.gov/SafeChild/Drowning/index.html . For more information about

healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming