Knowledge is power. So before you and the family head for the great outdoors, tune up your skills and know how to play it safe. Here are five ideas to consider:
1. Do the Stingray Shuffle. If you are headed to the beach, be sure the whole family practices the Stingray Shuffle before plunging into the sea. Stingrays bury themselves under a thin blanket of sand for protection. By shuffling into the water, you’ll create a vibration and the creature will be alerted and will move off in a different direction. Stingrays are also most active during 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., prime beach time, so ask the lifeguard or your resort’s front desk about stingray activity before splashing into the surf. Should a sting occur, use hot water to clean the wound and seek medical attention. The Stingray City sandbar, home to the Southern Stingray, is a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands.
2. Snake smarts. Hiking, climbing and camping in many parts of the country mean a snake encounter is possible. According to the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, more than half of those bitten intentionally provoked the snake in some way. So make sure kids know the danger and don’t deliberately disturb the creature should you come across one.
Stay on hiking trails and keep hands and feet away from wood and rock piles, deep grass or crevices. Carry a flashlight and wear shoes after dark. “Time is tissue,” experts say. So if a bite does occur, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
3. Be bear aware. Your goal during a hiking, fishing or camping experience is to avoid crossing paths with a bear. So while making plans, inquire about recent bear activity in your intended destination. Research shows that bear spray is effective, so have yours at the ready and know how to use it. Travel in groups of three or more and sing, tell stories, or carry a bell to let bears know you are in the area. Hike during daylight hours, stay on trails and avoid berry patches and animal carcasses. Look for signs of bear activity including scat, tracks or overturned rocks. When camping, keep your tent and spaces clean and free of odors. (Remind kids that stashing candy bars in their sleeping bag is not a good idea.) Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked in. Be sure to hang food and trash away from sleeping areas or in bear-proof containers.
4. Don’t let lightning strike. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 400 people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S. Teach the kids that “when thunder roars, go indoors.” When planning an activity have a safety plan and know where you will meet should a storm develop. Watch for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and shifting and strengthening wind patterns. If you hear thunder, even at a distance, it is time to move to a sturdy building or hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed, advises NOAA. Stay away from tall, isolated trees, utility polls or open areas. Avoid wires and metal fencing. Wait for 30 minutes after the last thunderclap to move outside. If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 and get immediate medical attention.
5. Stay warm and dry. Whether you get caught in a downpour, lost on the trail, or stay in the boat or on the slopes longer than expected, know that getting too cold and too wet is something to avoid. It is helpful to remember the acronym COLD to avoid hypothermia. Cover, Overexertion, Layers and Dry. It’s especially important to keep heads and hands and feet covered. Avoid overexertion that will cause sweating. The combination of wet clothes and cold temperatures will cause the loss of body heat. Dressing in loose-fitting layers, with silk, wool or polypropylene closest to the body, is best for retaining body heat. And of course, stay dry whenever possible and remove wet clothing at the earliest opportunity. Know that children (and older adults) chill more quickly and need one more layer than grownups in the same conditions. Shivering, the body’s natural attempt to warm itself, is a first sign of hypothermia. Bright red, cold skin and a weak cry are the first signs of hypothermia in an infant.