NCDHHS urges best practices for keeping you and your pets healthy while enjoying recreational waters


RALEIGH — As summer activities heat up and North Carolinians flock to recreational waters to beat the higher temperatures, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services is urging residents to prioritize safety and adopt best practices for enjoying water activities with their pets. 

When swimming in lakes and rivers, it is crucial to ensure the well-being of both humans and their pets. 

The following guidelines can help individuals and pet owners enjoy recreational waters safely: 

Recognize harmful algal blooms: Algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and pets. They often appear as thick, green, blue-green or red scums on the water's surface or along the shoreline. Avoid contact with affected waters and keep your pets away from these areas as well. 

Avoid suspicious water conditions: Be cautious if the water appears discolored, has a strong odor or contains visible debris. Such conditions may indicate poor water quality or possible bacterial contamination. Choose a different location to ensure a safer water experience for you and your pets. 

Water quality advisory updates: Stay informed about water quality advisories or warnings issued by local authorities for recreational waters. These advisories may include alerts about harmful algal blooms or bacteria contamination. Check the latest updates before heading out to enjoy summer water activities here. 

Prevent ingestion: As you enjoy the water this summer, avoid ingesting water and reduce your risk of illness by keeping your mouth closed and holding your nose shut or using a nose clip. Discourage your pets from drinking or ingesting water while swimming to prevent water-borne illness. Carry fresh water for your pets to drink and keep them hydrated throughout your water activities. 

Rinse off after water activities: After swimming, rinse yourself and your pets with clean with fresh water to remove any potential bacteria, algae or toxins that may cling to the skin or fur. This simple step can minimize health risks associated with waterborne contaminants. 

Monitor for symptoms: Be attentive to any symptoms in yourself or your pets after water activities, such as skin irritations, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems or unusual behavior. If you or your pets exhibit any concerning symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.

"Understanding and monitoring water quality is vital for the safety of both residents and their pets during water recreation,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, assistant director for Public Health. “By following these guidelines and being vigilant, we can minimize the risks associated with harmful algae and bacteria, ensuring a healthier experience for all.” 

Keep yourself and your pets healthy as we approach the summer season by following these guidelines and adhering to any posted cautions or advisories. For more information and additional resources on water safety, click here.

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