As the weather starts to get warmer children are tempted towards water. Most of Scotland’s rivers, lochs, and beaches are safe for playing, swimming and paddling – but even clean looking waters may contain harmful germs from sewage, factories, farms and from wild animals.
These germs can cause a variety of illnesses varying from mild sickness and diarrhoea to serious illnesses such as E coli infection.
Germs in the water get into our bodies by hand-to-mouth contact during eating, drinking or smoking, by wiping the face with contaminated hands or by licking splashes from the skin. Uncovered cuts and grazes can also become infected.
It is therefore very important to take some basic precautions to reduce the risk:-
Children must always get permission from a parent or guardian before playing, swimming or paddling in water.*
Avoid polluted waters – signs of pollution include:
Cover skin cuts and grazes before entering the water.
Don’t let the water get into your mouth.
Avoid wiping your face with wet hands.
Wash your hands before eating.
*Adults should assess any risks and make sure that younger children are supervised when playing swimming or paddling in water
Children who feel ill after contact with natural water should tell a parent or guardian immediately. If you or your child feel ill after contact with natural water and you think the water may have been contaminated you should seek medical advice.
The safest option is to stick to waters of known quality. For information on the quality of bathing beaches see the web sites of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Keep Scotland Beautiful at:-
You can also phone SEPA’s “Beachline” number 08452 30 30 98 or text your beach name to 07797 806503. Daily live results are available during the summer from 1 June to 15 September.
For general water safety advice for children and young people see the ROSPA Water Safety Code at
NHS Forth Valley, Stirling Council Environmental Health, For further advice – phone Environmental Health on 0845 2777000