Fishermen should watch out for summer heat on water

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Summer is a time of relaxation, but this lazy time of year poses a few health hazards to outdoor enthusiasts -- including fishermen. The sun and alcohol top the list of dangers.Many fishermen will suffer from minor ailments such as sunburns, headaches and heat exhaustion if they do not protect themselves properly from the Arkansas heat. However, there are some serious injuries caused by too much exposure to the sun."Heatstroke is the greatest danger," according to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regional educational coordinator Marcus Kilburn. "It is easy for fishermen to get overheated because the sun is not only beating down on them, but also reflected off the water," he said. "Besides the reflecting sun, the chances are greater for fishermen to overheat because the rocking of the boat messes with their equilibrium," Kilburn added.Heatstroke is a severe health problem. It occurs when the body temperature increases drastically to 106 degrees or more. This causes damage to many organs -- including the brain and spinal cord. A heat stroke sufferer may show signs of confusion, have hallucinations, go into a seizure or coma or possibly even die.Although this is a serious problem, it is one that can be easily avoided.Here are some simple steps to prevent heatstroke:Keep something in your stomach. "Deer jerky is the best," Kilburn said, "because it has so much protein."Keep your head covered with a hat and wear sunglasses.Keep yourself hydrated, water is always best.Avoid fishing between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. "That is when the sun is most intense," Kilburn said, "and the fish aren't biting anyway."Don't do a lot of strenuous activity. "Some people go for a swim to cool off," Kilburn said, "but this burns a lot of calories and can actually do more harm them good. The best thing to do is just get wet or dip your hat in the water."Don't drink too much beer or alcoholic drinks. "Beer dehydrates you faster than anything, faster than Coke or any sugared drink," Kilburn said.Consuming alcohol poses another threat, which can be fatal. "Many people think they need to drink when they go out in a boat," said Bob Cushing, the AGFC's boating education program coordinator, "but if you're drinking and operating the boat, you're an accident waiting to happen."The effects of alcohol are more potent when out in the summer heat because of natural stress factors like the sun, wind, the rocking of the boat and the noise of the motor."These factors wear you down and make you tired," said Cushing, "you're ability to reason and distinguish things like distance is hampered. Besides, the level of intoxication has lowered. It is now .08 percent instead of .10 percent."Which means it is easier to get ticketed with a BUI (boating under the influence). "My advice is don't drink at all," said Cushing.This summer, be safe. Take the simple steps that could save your life. Summer heat and alcohol are such mundane things that their dangers are easily overlooked. If you decide to drink, don't operate the boat. Bring someone designated to operate the boat for you.If you start feeling the symptoms of heat exhaustion find a shady place or air-conditioned room, drink fluids, and wrap yourself in cold wet towels and most of all, enjoy your summer.

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