vacation dangers

The Dirty Dozen: Part I It’s a Dangerous World Out There, but Your Favorite Summer Activity Doesn’t Have To Be

Don't let your summer fun be spoiled by a bad decision.

Don’t let your summer fun be spoiled by a bad decision.

Summer is in full swing, and millions of people are spending more time outdoors than ever before. Pirates, mariners, tourists, and sailors. Swimmers, kayakers, hikers, and bikers. With a world full of creepy, crawly things on land and sea, what’s a pirate to do?

Relax, inhale, take another sip of your Starbucks or your Margarita, and let me remind you of the Dirty Dozen. These are the little spoilers that can pop up at any moment and spoil an otherwise perfect day of fun in the sun. With a little forethought, you can wake up tomorrow refreshed instead of nursing wounds you might well have avoided. Here they are in no particular order.

Rip Tides. Did you know there are over 370,000 drowning deaths a year worldwide? While getting caught in a riptide may seem like a death warrant, it doesn’t have to be. It happens like this. The sandy bottom under your feet is suddenly sucked out from under you, and your whole body is dragged rapidly from the shore. No matter how hard you fight, you are swept farther and farther from shore. It’s hard not to, but remember not to panic. Rip tides are powerful only near the shore and quickly lose their power.

Instead of fighting it, let it carry you out. Then swim a few yards parallel to the shore before attempting to swim back in. Because rip tides are only a few yards wide, you’ll be free of its grasp. To avoid rip tides entirely, pay attention to your surroundings. If lifeguards have posted warnings, heed them. If there are no guards, stay with other swimmers where it’s safe.

Drinking While Boating. Did you know according to United States Coast Guard statistics that alcohol resulted in 228 injuries last year and 91 deaths? No one’s saying you can’t go out on the water and imbibe. Go ahead. Drink enough to satisfy a whole shipload of pirates. Just don’t get behind the wheel.  The penalties for drunk boating are the same as they are for drunk driving. Why turn a fun day on the water into a nightmare? Do you really want to end your day sitting in your wet bathing suit in lock-up with Bubba staring at you? For more tips on safe boating, visit http://uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php

Dehydration. Whether you’re out for a morning jog bearing down on mile thirteen like my daughter Jennifer often does, or standing in line at the waterpark, your body is sweating, and when it’s sweating, it’s losing valuable fluids that control your core temperature. To keep it healthy and happy, you need to drink about three quarts of water or juice a day. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. The more you’re sweating, the more you need to drink. People who weigh more need to drink more. Those who spend a good deal of time in the sun like laborers or sun-worshippers need more fluids.

If you’re feeling lightheaded, get out of the sun, and hydrate. If your urine is dark, you’re already dehydrated. And don’t limit yourself to water. Replace lost electrolytes with drinks like Gatorade and fruit juices. Most importantly, if you feel you are seriously dehydrated, get yourself immediate medical help. It may very well save your life. Continue reading →

Summer Warning: Alligators

the hungry gator origin

Two-year-old Lane Graves died on June 14 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa after being attacked by an alligator. When the gator lunged for him just after dark at the Seven Seas Lagoon section of the resort, his mother and father immediately jumped into the water to rescue him but were unable to free him from the alligator’s jaws. His body was recovered the next afternoon fully intact.

Like the ten plus toddlers who have died because they were left in cars since the start of the summer season, Lane’s death is a horrific tragedy. Nothing will fill the void that the parents of these children are experiencing. The most we can do is learn from their deaths.

It may surprise you that alligator deaths are somewhat rare. Since records have been kept in 1947, there have been only 24 deaths. In perspective that’s one death every three years. When that person is a loved one the statistics are outrageous.

A week before Baby Graves’ tragic death, an alligator was discovered with a man’s body in its mouth in Lake Hunter in Lakeland, Florida.

Last year two deaths involving alligators were reported in Florida though only one was officially blamed on an alligator. One involved a 22-year old man whose body was found in a pond in Brevard County, Florida. A month before that, a 62-year old man died while snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park near Orange City, Florida. Because no one witnessed the actual attack, it may not have been added to the death toll. That’s not comforting.

Last summer a man in Orange County Texas in his late twenties died after ignoring posted signs warning of alligators in the area. One of the last things he did before lunging into the water was taunt a nearby alligator.

Whether you’re a mariner on the high seas or the occasional tourist, if you travel long enough and wide enough, you’re likely going to find yourself in a land where gators and crocodiles are abundant. It could be a trip to Florida, or a cruise to some tropical island.

Avoid water and swimming at night. Alligators come out to feed from dawn to dusk. That’s not to say, you won’t be attacked during the day if you swim in a pond alligators inhabit. Use common sense.

Alligators feed on small animals, birds, and turtles. They’re not particularly interested in adult humans. They’re way too big. Children and pets are the size of the creatures they hunt so take precautions to safeguard them. With splashing, even adults submerged in water look more like a meal to a ravenous gator.

Crouching or kneeling before an alligator is something only a moron would do. Let me tell you a story about Lester. There was this photographer who thought it was pretty cool to get in the face of an alligator so he could take his picture. Evidently Lester never heard of using a longer lens to bring him up closer. When he squatted down, Lester was signing his own death warrant. All the gator had to do was execute it. You see, when Lester knelt, he made two fatal mistakes with one motion. He made himself smaller by crouching, and he put his body in a mechanical disadvantage. With one swift lunge, that gator would have had Lester’s camera and his neck crushed in the vice of his jaws before he even pressed the shutter. The gator let Lester live that day, but given his lack of common sense, my money is on the gator next time round, who has a brain no bigger than a walnut but evidently bigger than Lester’s.  Continue reading →