Banner Health Services  

Four Ways to Stay Safe at the Lake

Dr. Robert Baron  

Robert Baron, MD, is an emergency medicine specialist at Page Hospital and Banner Estrella.

Question; My family is heading to the lake this summer. What can we do to make it a safe trip?

Answer: Keep your family safe on the lake this summer by avoiding the most common injuries that bring lake visitors to the Emergency department:

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a major contributor of fatalities on Lake Powell. CO can affect passengers in boats, whether they are at speed, anchored or idling. CO levels from boat exhaust can reach critical levels in a short time.

You cannot see, smell, or taste CO. Know exactly where your boat’s propulsion engine and/or generator’s exhaust pipes are. Keep away from engine and generator exhaust outlets. Never sit, teak surf, or hang on the back deck or swim platform while the engines are running. Never enter areas under swim platform where exhaust outlets are located. Install and maintain CO alarms inside your boat. Do not ignore any alarm.

What you should do
Symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning may include:
-severe headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, fainting.
But, when the concentrations of CO is high, unconsciousness can be the first sign of CO poisoning and this can occur without the previous noted symptoms of headache, nausea, vomiting, etc.

Seek medical attention if…
If you suspect CO poisoning, immediately get the victim to fresh air and seek medical care.

Dehydration is often the underlying cause of sickness and accidents on the lake. Arizona’s high heat and relatively low humidity can rapidly lead to dehydration.

Drink 8 to 10 8-ounce glasses (~2 Liters) of water daily or more during extreme heat, low humidity or activity. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Protect your skin: wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and reduce activity during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Check the color your urine. It should be a pale yellow, like the color of straw. If it is dark, drink more fluids.

What you should do
Stop activity, rest and get out of direct sunlight. Drink 64 oz (~2 L) of cool liquids (including rehydration fluids) over the next two to four hours.

Seek medical attention if...
Dizziness, weakness, confusion, fainting, fast-beating heart or no urination for eight hours.

Lacerations (cuts)
Broken glass, sharp metal, clam shells, fishing hooks, sticks and other sharp plant life are easily hidden beneath the sand and water.

Wear protective footwear on beaches!

What you should do
Most bleeding can be stopped with direct pressure with a clean, dry cloth. Cleanse the wound with gentle soap and water to help reduce the chance of infection. You may need a tetanus shot if you have not had one in a long time.

Seek medical attention if…
The wound keeps bleeding or pain in the wound gets worse. You have a high temperature or signs of infection (redness, pus, or red streaks leading from the wound).
You have numbness or swelling below the wound, or you cannot move the joint below the wound.

Wake Injuries
Wakes (the waves that form behind a boat) can create an impact that could propel passengers from a boat and cause serious injury or death.

Slow down when passing boats. Approach large boat wakes at a 45 degree angle.
Warn all passengers to hold on when approaching a large wake. Bow riding (sitting on the top front part of the boat) is illegal unless the boat is designed for people to ride in the bow section (the bow section will have seats). Look at the size of the wake, not the size of the boat. Depending on hull design, even relatively smaller boats can produce serious wakes. Be aware of wakes and waves that bounce back and forth between canyon walls.

What you should do
Impacts from wakes can cause a boat passenger to be thrown into the air and land forcefully back onto the boat.

If you have been injured by a wake:
Lie down on your back on a very firm, flat surface, and keep still until medics can reach you, or you can obtain medical attention. If you have any numbness, weakness, loss of control of urine or stool, radio for help immediately.

Page Last Modified: 07/06/2011
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