Water Safety

From tap water to poolside hazards, The Doctors provide essential water safety tips.

Rip Currents
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for swimmers in the United States. President of the American Lifeguard Association B.J. Fisher describes rip currents as natural waves that break at the shore line, but stronger waves in one area and weaker waves in another area cause a canal, or current, that pulls out to the ocean.

Most people are caught by surprise when they find themselves in a rip current. “Normally, panic or fear sets in, and people exhaust themselves trying to swim against the current,” B.J. says.

The canals, or currents, are usually only 6 feet to 100 feet wide, so the best thing to do is go with the flow of the current until its pull subsides, then swim to the side of the current and make your way back to shore.

“Face the shore, signal to the people along the shore,” B.J. instructs. “If you’re onshore, alert the lifeguard and call 911.”

“The current isn’t dangerous. It’s usually only about 5 mph,” B.J. adds. “It’s the panic that sets in and the struggling of swimming directly against the current. Go with the flow of the shore, take your time, conserve your energy, and swim back.”

Jellyfish Stings
Most people are unaware that jellyfish are in the water, so a jellyfish sting usually comes as a surprise.

“Don’t panic. It’s normally not a life-threatening situation,” B.J. instructs. “It’s more of a severe pain.”

He advises swimmers to make their way back to shore and try to get the tentacles off the skin with a gloved hand or tweezers. Jellyfish tentacles can emit more than one million stinging cells onto an unsuspecting swimmer’s skin, which twist burrow into the skin like pointed corkscrews. Rinse the affected area with salt water rather than fresh water, which can exacerbate the stinging cells.

A new product called JellyFish Squish , when applied immediately, stops the stinging cells from emptying their venom into the skin and helps to alleviate pain.

Pain from a jellyfish sting can last three to five hours, but if you’re having severe reactions such as difficulty breathing, call the doctor immediately.

Kiddie Pool Cleanliness
Clean with baking soda or a little bit of bleach once a day or two times per week. Cover the pool each night to keep dirt and debris out of the water, and skim the surface with a net once a day.

Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer's ear, also called otitis externa, is a painful infection of the ear canal. Annie is concerned about her 6-year-old daughter, Abigail’s, chronic swimmer’s ear.

How to Avoid Swimmer’s Ear:
• Auro-Dri water-drying aid drops
• Use an ear dryer after swimming
• Don’t put anything inside the ear
• Don’t use ear plugs

Pool Folliculitis
Pool folliculitis is a skin infection transmitted in swimming pools and hot tubs that are not properly cleaned and disinfected. To keep potentially harmful bacteria and chemicals in the water from permeating your skin, always rinse off after every dip in a pool or hot tub.

Boat Safety
Pediatrician and sailing enthusiast Dr. Jim Sears joins members of the Columbia Yacht Club on Lake Michigan for some time on the water. Learn boating safety tips, and watch Dr. Sears in action!

Dr. Jim demonstrates the correct way to size and fit children's life jackets.

Flood Dangers
In the event of a flood, water can rise quickly, creating a dangerous situation almost instantaneously. If you live in a flood zone or near a water source, or want to be prepared in case of a heavy rain, follow these flood safety tips to secure your home.
Bring outdoor furniture inside, because if floodwaters rise, furniture can block exits Turn off gas, electricity and water Stock up on water, food, prescriptions, etc. Have an emergency preparedness kit Stay tuned in to local radio or TV news

"Six inches of raging water coming through a corridor can actually knock you off your feet," says Eric Stromer of HGTV's Over Your Head. "Don't underestimate something that seems like a little, small eddy that's flowing across your property. That can take you out.

"A foot of water can actually stall a car and actually move that car," he continues. "Do not drive into flood areas. If you ever see that occurring, make sure that you stop the car, back up, get out and get to higher ground."

E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says that if you do find yourself in a car when water is flooding, make sure to lower the windows. "You want those windows open because that may be your only escape route," he says.

Eric demonstrates the ResQMe tool, which can help you escape if you are trapped in a car surrounded by flood water.

More car safety tips.

From mold cleanup to electrical safety, Eric and The Doctors explain what to do after a flood.

Electrical Dangers after a Flood
Beware of wet outlets and electrical cords Do not use electrical appliances that may have gotten wet Have an electrician check house wiring and appliances Use caution with wet-dry vacuums during post-flood cleanup

More on severe weather safety.

Rethink the Water We Drink?
The Doctors' Health Investigator, Liz Vaccariello, finds out why Americans spend billions each year on bottled water instead of drinking it from the tap for free.

 "Water is essential to life, but most of the time, we take it for granted," Liz says. "Americans have some of the cleanest and most regulated public water in the world. Each year, we spend [more than] $10 billion on bottled water, [and] the environmental impact cannot be ignored."

Recycle, reuse, reduce. Learn more about reducing your impact on the environment.

 At the Columbus Circle Time Warner Center, Liz conducts a taste test to see how New Yorkers react to the taste of tap, bottled and mountain spring water. See how NYC tap water placed!

Liz finds that the average bottle of water costs $3.19. Buying 2 liters of bottled water every day would add up to $1,500.00 per year, while 2 liters of tap water per day would total a mere 50 cents. She reaches out to scientist and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind our Obsession with Water, Dr. Peter Gleick, to find out why people are shelling out big bucks.  "Sometimes, people think they don't like the taste of their tap water. They're bombarded with advertising and marketing campaigns for [bottled water]," Dr. Gleick says. "There's no reason to assume that bottled water is any safer, and most bottled water originates as tap water."

In some parts of the country, hydraulic fracturing, or drilling, has been found to leak methane into municipal water sources, making people ill and animals lose their coats. It has even been said that there is so much gas present in the water, that people can set it on fire. The new film Gasland reveals how drilling is affecting our water sources. "This movie gave me chills [and] made me cry," Liz says. "This is scary, scary stuff"

 Since hydraulic fracturing is not limited to rural areas, Liz visits the New York Department of Environmental Protection to get to the bottom of how city water is regulated. The New York City water supply is tested every single day under 250 parameters and Liz is assured that the quality of New York water is unquestionable.

Both bottled and tap water are generally safe to drink. If you dislike the taste of your tap water, Liz provides a few tips on how to freshen its flavor.

Tap Water Tips
• Pour water in a pitcher and refrigerate over night. This should decrease any unpleasant taste.
• Contracting germs is more likely from the faucet than the water itself. Wash the screen and faucet at least once a month.
• When it comes to public water systems, don't be afraid get involved. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires every water system to post an annual report online. Log on to www.EPA.gov for more information.