Watersports can be a fun way to get some exercise and keep cool in the heat. Whether you are water skiing, kayaking, tubing, or just swimming, knowing common water sporting precautions can help make your water experience a safe one.

While most water interactions are harmless, sport goers run the risk of injury. If basic first-aid can be administered, promptly treat the wound. However, if faced with bleeding or swelling that is continuous, seek further medical care through an urgent care provider or the emergency room. Common water sporting injuries and ailments include:

  • Sprains and other injuries to extremities: Coming in contact with rocks or other water debris can cause injury to the body. Water skiing and wakeboarding can also result in sprains due to the equipment being bound to the rider’s feet and ankles. Taking time to stretch and roll out muscles before can also help to prevent injury.
  • Strains in the head/neck area: Strains to the head and neck are common injuries for water sports due to the impact of the water when falling. Keeping a reasonable speed is suggested, and always obey the water speed laws to prevent injury.
  • Concussion: Some water sporting activities are high impact and falling could result in injuries to the head. Be sure to wear a life jacket in all water sporting activities. If participating in an especially at-risk sport like white water or motor sports, wear a water helmet to further prevent head injuries on the water.
  • Lacerations: Sharp rocks or broken glass can be lurking under the water’s surface. If active in a particularly rocky area, wear water shoes that can prevent injuries to the feet. If you obtain a manageable sized cut, clean and apply basic first aid to keep further bacteria from getting in it. If the injury is serious or continuously bleeding, seek further medical aid. Another common source of lacerations is tow lines. Always check the tow line before proceeding to ensure it isn’t caught under the boat or around the person participating.
  • Water-borne infections: Lakes, oceans and rivers may be contaminated with bacteria. Be mindful of water signage and do not swim in water that is under a swimming advisory for pollution. Coming in contact with contaminated water increases the risk of an open wound becoming infected. While it is not recommended to swim with an open wound, keeping it cleaned and covered can help to prevent infections. Use a flexible, breathable bandage to cover your wound while in the water. Wound treatment depends on the severity of the wound. Keep the infected area cleaned, and take an anti-inflammatory or an antibiotic to help with the swelling. Seek medical treatment if basic first-aid care is insufficient.

To help keep you safe, check out these tips for water sporting precautions:

  • Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device when necessary: Before venturing out on the water, check the life jackets laws in your area. Regardless of your state’s life jacket laws, the U.S. Coast Guard requires children under the age of 13 on a moving boat to wear a life jacket. When participating in activities where you may fall like kayaking or being pulled in a tube, always wear a personal flotation device. Life jackets should fit snugly with all zippers and straps securely fastened.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye on other boats and water vessels in your activity area. Also be on the lookout for signs that direct water traffic and warnings, or directional buoys that could be floating in the water.
  • Learn to swim: Enroll young children in swimming lessons before allowing them access to bodies of water. Also, if needed, check out adult swimming lesson opportunities at your local recreation center before engaging in water activities.
  • Never go out alone: When out on the water, it is suggested both a driver and spotter make sure those in the water and around them are safe. It is also recommended to inform an extra person of where you will be going and how to find you in case of an emergency.
  • Always check the weather: Be aware of the weather forecast in your area and keep an eye out for changing weather conditions throughout your activity. Do not engage in water activities if there is a weather warning and get to safety if faced with strong weather while on the water.
  • Make sure all equipment is properly and safely stored: Ensure all paddles and equipment are properly stored on the boat or kayak/canoe. Double check that you have everything you need and have access to first aid before going out on the water.
  • Stay hydrated: It is easy to become dehydrated while engaging in sporting activity, especially outside in the heat. Because of the cooling effect of water sports, many people forget to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, feeling lightheaded and nausea.
  • Be mindful of young children: It is an adult’s job to make sure children are following water safety precautions. Keep an eye on younger children and children who are not strong swimmers. Ensure a child’s life jacket has the proper fit before allowing them near water. It is recommended that weaker swimmers or young children have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach at all times to ensure safety.
  • Know water laws: Keep an eye out for changes in water laws and recommendations in your area. In some states boating safety certificates are necessary so check out your area’s requirements to be up to date on boating safety procedures. Boating safety courses are offered through the Coast Guard Auxiliary and state boating agencies for individuals of all ages looking to learn more about boating safety.

Remember that safety and fun go hand in hand on the water and taking these simple precautions can ensure you have a fun time while also preventing injuries and infections!

For more information on water safety, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/features/boatingsafety/

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