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How to Stay Safe on the Water

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Summer unofficially begins this weekend! What better way to cool off than to hit one of Minnesota’s ten thousand plus lakes? It’s a great idea, but when was the last time you had a refresher course in water safety? Here are just a few ways to safe on the lake this summer.

Boating and swimming are two of my favorite outdoor activities. As fun as they can be, they can also be dangerous if you’re not careful.

Watch Your Children

Most beaches and pools have not opened yet, so there won’t be any lifeguards on duty. If you do choose to go swimming from shore, keep an eye on your children. This is also just a good rule of thumb to always be aware of where your children are and what they’re doing at the beach. There are a lot of swimmers and just a few lifeguards to watch over beach goers, so make sure the kids are properly supervised.

Watch for High Water

We have had a very wet month this past month, so water levels, especially in streams, creeks and rivers may be a little higher and a little faster than usual. You can check the flood levels for the lakes, rivers and streams by going to the National Weather Service’s Central Regional Headquarters web page.

Wear Your Life Jacket

Minnesota law requires that there be enough life jackets for everyone on board. Adults are not required to wear them at all times, but children are, with a few exceptions. Make sure the life jacket fits properly and it’s not too small so it can still buckle and that it’s not too big so it won’t slip up over the wearer’s head and fall off.

Wear Sunblock

The sun gives off two types of rays. There are UVA rays that are present any time the sun is out and then there are the super damaging UVB rays that are most powerful between April and October. When chosing a sunscreen, pick one that has a a sun protection factor (or SPF) of 15 or greater and check carefully to make sure the packaging says “broad spectrum” or “multi-spectrum” on the label. The FDA recently changed how sunscreens are labeled and what they must protect against. Also, don’t be fooled by water resistant types of sunscreen. That just means that it doesn’t wash off as easily as others. You should apply sunblock roughly 30 minutes before you go out and reapply it every two hours you’re planning to be in the sun.

Watch How Much You Drink

Drinking slows reaction times, so if you’re planning on driving a vehicle or you’re captain of your pontoon, make sure you don’t drink too much. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota State Patrol, county sheriff’s departments, city police and the county water patrol routinely go out  looking out for those that are under the influence.  Take care to not drink too much and if you do, make sure you have a backup plan.

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