Lee County DOH reminds public to know when to swim, it shore it or dodge it
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County reminds residents and visitors to safely enjoy Florida’s waters over the summer.
Florida’s 9,000 miles of freshwater and salt water shoreline offer opportunities to have fun and stay cool, but it is important to know when to swim, stick to the shore or avoid naturally-occurring living organisms like mosquitoes or algae blooms.
Cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are a group of organisms that can live in freshwater, salt water or mixed “brackish” water. When conditions are right, such as warm water and increased nutrients, the organisms can increase in numbers and accumulate in some areas of a water body. The blooms can sometimes be pushed near the shore by winds, waves, tides and currents. When this happens, people have a greater chance of contact with the blooms.
Exposure to water containing algae may cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed and rash if touched or inhaled. Swimming in water with blue-green algae blooms may cause ear, eye and skin reactions, and hay fever and flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea – these reactions are not common. Algae blooms can also remove oxygen from the water and cause fish kills.
The department offers the following “Swim It, Shore It or Dodge It” reminders:
– Swim It – with a buddy when safety flags and signs indicate that it is safe to do so
– Shore It – on the sand if you have a cut on your skin, have a weakened immune system or you are alone
– Dodge It – to avoid organisms that live in or near the water, and stay clear of algae blooms
If you experience illness related to an algae bloom, call the Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
For health-related questions, contact the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at Lee-PIO@FLHealth.gov.
To report fish kills, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511.
To report algae blooms, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 855-305-3903.
For more information about blue-green algae and enjoying Florida’s water ways safely, visit www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html.