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Summer Heat Outdoor Safety Tips for Swimming and Boating

There are hazards with most summer activities, especially when the sun is intense and the temperatures rise, but most recreational mishaps are preventable.

Two adults laying on colorful floats enjoying the pool.

Summertime can be bright and noisy or hazy and relaxing and everyone enjoys the summer months in a different way with a variety of activities, sports, and gatherings that are often great opportunities for making new memories.

When it’s hot outside, and especially during heat waves, it’s important that everyone take measures to stay cool, remain hydrated, keep informed, and take care of those that need a little extra help.

During the hottest days, those who are at the highest risk include people 65 and older, infants and young children, and people with chronic medical conditions. Pets also need extra care in hot weather.

A graphic of a bright, yellow sun.

Having fun in the sun is an enjoyable way to spend your summer that can also provide mental and physical health benefits. Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to get “too much sun” and begin to feel the dangerous effects of high temperatures.

During hot weather, plan outdoor activities during morning or evening hours to avoid being outside during the hottest hours of the day. If you are outside during hot, midday weather, take frequent breaks and rest often in the shade. Pace your activity by starting slow and increasing the intensity gradually.

Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing, a hat, and sunglasses. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink more.

Avoid sunburn because it slows the skin’s ability to cool itself. Wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Know the signs of heat-related illnesses so you can respond quickly. At the first signs of heat illness, which might include dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, or similar, move to a cooler location to rest and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not begin to feel better.

A woman sitting in her car with the window rolled down and she is obviously sweaty and hot.

Swimming safety rules are often geared towards children, like using the buddy system, but adults can benefit from water safety reminders too.

Be honest with yourself about what you can handle while swimming, and don’t push your limits. Watch for signs of exhaustion or cramping and take breaks to avoid overexertion.

The buddy system works for adults too! Don’t swim alone, or at least ensure someone can see you in the water, even if they are on land or on a boat.

Do not swim if you have been drinking or are under the influence of drugs or medications. Even if you don’t realize it, an altered state can impair your judgment, slow your reactions, and affect your ability to make safe decisions, which is critical when you're in the water.

Pay attention to posted warning signs, flagged areas, or visual cues warning of strong currents in the area. Rip currents are so strong that they can quickly pull even the strongest swimmers away from the shore. If you get caught in a rip current, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, then swim at an angle back to the shore.

Make sure you know the depth before diving or jumping into the water. If you can’t see or don’t know what’s below the surface, don’t dive or jump in. When diving, keep your arms extended above your head. Your arms form a protective barrier for your head and neck, reducing the risk of head injuries.

Small boats at a marina tied to the dock.

Boating is an enjoyable summer activity but make safety a priority to ensure a good time on the water.

Start by using a pre-departure checklist to verify that the boat and essential gear are in good condition and ready for the trip. Always check the weather and water conditions for your route and destination to ensure it's safe before you head out.

If you’re the boat operator, stay sober. Keep the engine turned off when passengers are getting on or off the boat from the water. Ensure that life jackets are available and correctly fitted for each passenger and crew member before leaving the dock.

Exercise common sense by maintaining a safe speed, especially in crowded areas and be particularly cautious around boats towing skiers or tubers. Avoid large vessels that might have limited maneuverability.

Familiarize yourself with and follow nautical rules. Pay attention to buoys and navigational aids, which are in place to keep everyone safe. Assign an assistant skipper who is knowledgeable about the boat’s handling and safety procedures in case the primary operator is unable to steer the boat. Create a float plan that includes details about your trip, the people on board, and the boat, and share this with someone not on the trip.

A person reaching into a cooler filled with beer.

During the summer, it's important to approach alcohol consumption with caution so you can enjoy summer activities responsibly and safely. Both the outdoor heat and alcohol can cause dehydration. The sun causes your body to sweat to stay cool and alcohol affects your body’s ability to balance fluids.

Replace lost fluids by drinking water throughout the day to avoid symptoms of dehydration like dizziness and fatigue. Keep a bottle of water or an electrolyte beverage nearby that you can sip from, especially if you are consuming alcohol.

Consuming alcohol can make you more relaxed and careless, which can be dangerous especially near the water, where it’s important to stay alert and focused. The combination of physical activity (like swimming or other sports), the heat, and alcohol can lead to overheating, which can put anyone at risk for fainting, cramping, or other heat-related illnesses.

To reduce the risk of impaired judgment and coordination, set a limit on your alcohol intake, and stick to it. Avoid consuming alcohol if you are the designated driver or if you are responsible for others' safety during outdoor activities.

If you have been drinking do not operate a boat, go swimming by yourself, or drive an ATV or any other motor vehicle.

A thermometer indicating high temperatures.

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