Now that school is out for the summer, families might be planning hiking, camping or swimming trips in the great outdoors of Arkansas. It’s been a year since we’ve had a summer break, so let’s review the rules and best practices in the summer safety handbook. These guidelines can keep you safer on the water, in the woods and in the sun.
On The Water
Arkansas has more than 600,000 acres of lakes and nearly 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks, and summer is the best time to take advantage of them. Wearing a life jacket while boating or paddling on lakes and rivers keeps kids safe and is the law.
“Children 12 and under must wear a life jacket on the water,” said Spencer Griffith, marketing manager for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. ”We always say a life jacket can’t help you if you’re not wearing it.”
In addition, every vessel must have a personal floatation device for each person on board. Life vests must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved, in good condition and of proper size, according to the commission website.
Griffith says it’s important to avoid glass and remove trash to keep our waterways clean. Glass containers are prohibited in canoes, kayaks, inner tubes or other vessels that might easily tip over.
The Game and Fish Commission is tasked with enforcing these rules as well as providing boater safety courses. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1986, must have a boater education course to operate a motorboat or sailboat. They should also carry their boater education card as proof of taking the course.
In the Heat
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.”
Parents should choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, also known as broad spectrum protection. Apply 30 minutes before going outside and reapply if children are swimming or exercising. Adding a bottle of sunscreen to backpacks or bags, or even carrying it in the car, can make sure you’re always prepared.
If your child’s skin is turning pink, it may be too late. The CDC says “it can take up to 12 hours for the skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.” When skin starts to turn pink, it’s time to get out of the sun. Even under cloudy skies, sunscreen is still necessary.
“Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly,” the CDC says.
Other ways to protect children from the sun include: sunglasses, hats, umbrellas or shady areas, and covering up with long-sleeved shirts or swimsuits.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Cold, pale or clammy skin
Fast, weak pulse
Nausea or vomiting
Tiredness or weakness
Fainting or passing out
What to do:
Move the person to a cool place and loosen clothes. Apply cool or wet cloths to the body or take a cool bath. Sip water. Emergency medical treatment is necessary if the person is vomiting, symptoms become worse or last longer than an hour.
How to Remove Ticks
1. Using fine-tip tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady pressure. Don’t twist or jerk. If the tick’s mouth remains in the skin, try to remove it with tweezers, but if you can’t, leave it alone and the skin should heal.
3. Thoroughly clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
4. Place the tick in a sealed bag or container or flush it down the toilet. Don’t crush it with your fingers.
If a rash occurs at the bite site or a fever develops within a few weeks, see your doctor.
In the Woods
Bites from mosquitoes and ticks can cause infections, including West Nile virus and other diseases. Prevention is the most effective way to eliminate your risk. Some measures you and your family can take to avoid mosquito bites include using insect repellent or wearing clothing or carrying gear treated with an insect repellent called permethrin. The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed these active ingredients safe and effective for use, which includes pregnant and breastfeeding women: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol (PMD). Don’t use repellent on babies younger than 2 months and do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under 3 years old.
To prevent bites, you can also take steps to control the mosquito and tick population in your living area, such as adding screens to windows and doors, using air conditioning and emptying items around your home that hold water.
To reduce the presence of ticks in your yard, remove leaf litter, clear tall grasses around the home, mow the lawn frequently, keep playground equipment away from trees and brush, and remove old furniture and debris where ticks might hide.