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Summer Water Precautions

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Before jumping into Oklahoma’s many lakes, rivers and streams, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says some simple precautions can prevent diseases, even death.

The DEQ says dangers could be lurking in the water that can cause anything from an ear infection to intestinal disease and meningitis. But you can reduce your exposure to the dangers by washing any open cuts and scrapes with soap and *clean* water right away, also wearing ear plugs and eye goggles.

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The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality offers offers several recommendations:

With summer right around the corner and Memorial Day weekend approaching, many Oklahomans will visit the state’s lakes, rivers and streams. The Department of Environmental Quality reminds everyone about common sense measures that should be practiced over the holiday weekend and throughout the summer.

Certain bacteria, viruses and protozoa can be present in bodies of water. In previous years, several illnesses due to bacteria and deaths due to exposure to an extremely rare protozoan occurred.

Some of these microorganisms occur naturally while others are carried into surface waters from a variety of sources. Swimmers themselves also are sources of microorganisms. Some of these microorganisms are harmful while others are not. The harmful organisms may cause mild problems such as ear infection, swimmers itch, intestinal diseases, or relatively rare but serious conditions such as eye infections and some forms of meningitis.

Here are some steps to take to reduce exposure to waterborne microorganisms while swimming:

  1. Avoid swimming in stagnant or polluted water

  2. Hold your nose or wear nose plugs when jumping into water

  3. Wash open skin cuts and scrapes with clean water and soap immediately after swimming

  4. Avoid swallowing water when swimming

  5. Wear ear plugs to prevent ear infections

  6. Wear swim goggles or masks to prevent eye infections

  7. Avoid swimming after heavy rains

  8. Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets)

  9. Avoid swimming in water with green surface scum


Swimmers should be aware of blue green algae, often referred to as pond scum. Exposure can trigger an allergic reaction, vision problems and gastrointestinal irritation. In severe cases, it can cause convulsions, seizures and muscle weakness.
It is strongly recommended that swimmers take the above-mentioned common sense precautions when swimming in untreated waters. DEQ encourages Oklahomans to have a safe, fun summer.
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