Warm weather has arrived and with it, plenty of fun and relaxation in the Florida sunshine. But along with a packed schedule of outdoor activities, there’s also an increased risk for physical injury. Whether you’re splashing around in the pool or jet skiing, be sure to make safety a top priority.
Safety on Land
It can be easy to let your guard down when you’re having a good time. The rate of spinal injuries increases in areas where water sports are popular, and up to 20% of all sports injuries involve the lower back and neck. According to the National Institute of Health, there are many ways to protect yourself, including the following:
- Maintain Moderate Activity Levels All Week
- Use Proper Form for the Activity
- Use Safety Equipment
- Accept Your Physical Limitations by Modifying Activities
- Increase Activity Levels Gradually
- Cross-Train for a Total Body Workout
Cover up and seek shade. When you’re in the sun, wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV light. And limit your direct exposure to the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
You should also use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher: Reapply at least every 2 hours, as well as after swimming or sweating. Sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so be sure to reapply as much as possible.
Staying Safe on the Water
Knowing how to swim is one of the most effective ways to increase your safety as a Floridian. Every day, about 10 people die from drowning. If you’re going into the water, make sure you’re able to save yourself if something doesn’t go according to plan, such as a kayak flipping over or falling off a jet ski. Many organizations like the American Red Cross or the YMCA offer swim classes for all skill levels and ages.
You can also visit an AdventHealth Wellness Center to work with a personal trainer or take a group fitness class to help you build your stamina both on land and in the water.
It can also be tempting to forego wearing a life jacket when you’re already a good swimmer, but even the strongest of swimmers should wear one every time they’re out at sea. The American Canoe Association estimates that nearly 70% of drownings that involve canoes, kayaks and rafts could be avoided by wearing a personal floatation device.
It’s also a good idea to check weather and sea conditions before heading out. Even on the most beautiful day the ocean can be unforgiving, and conditions can change very quickly. Paddlers should pay attention to wind and fog near the shoreline; surfers and scuba divers should be on the lookout for dangerous rip currents that can form in any large area of open water. If you do get caught in one, don’t panic. Stay calm and don’t fight the current. Swim parallel to the shore until you are able to break out of the rip current, then swim toward shore. If you can't swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head to safety as quickly as possible.
If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help. Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties — permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
Another way to be serious about safety is to make sure you never go out on the water alone. Tempting as it be may to have a solo paddle at sunrise, it’s always best to have a partner. For day trips and longer multi-day trips, you should even file a float plan with someone you trust. Set up check-ins and the time or date you expect to return. If you miss a check-in, someone will follow up with your contacts and know how to proceed. And if you can’t resist going for a solitary surf, always tell someone where you’ll be.
Part of staying safe is knowing where to go when you have an injury or emergency this summer. Should anything happen, your AdventHealth emergency and urgent care experts are ready to support you.