July 19, 2017
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
Fun in the sun often brings to mind pictures of relaxing on a boat, enjoying all the Arkansas outdoors has to offer. Whether you’re catching bass, crappie or bream, or just catching a few rays, it’s important to keep in mind that too much of a good thing can be damaging to your health.
Overexposure to the sun and indulging in too many alcoholic beverages top the list of dangers that can turn an otherwise relaxing trip to the lake into a nightmare. Each year, wildlife officers and other first responders are called to boat ramps and banks throughout the state in response to someone who’s had a little too much of either.
Tod Johnson, Assistant Boating Law Administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says with the varieties of sunscreen and products available to fight against overexposure, there’s really no reason not to take a little extra precaution on the water.
“You know, when I was younger I remember running around in the hot sun in blue jean cutoffs all day without thinking about sunscreen, but we’ve learned a lot since then,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t let my daughter go out without some sunscreen on. Not just for sunburns, but because we know repeated exposure to the sun can cause long-term damage to the skin and even skin cancer.”
Johnson says he’s seen the shift in thought from sun-worshiper to informed outdoorsperson, particularly in middle-aged and older anglers. But younger anglers also are paying a little more attention to old Sol’s impact.
“I see a lot more boats out there with canopies or tops nowadays,” Johnson said. “Even the bass boats we patrol in all day have retractable canopies to block the sun. And you see more anglers wearing thin, long-sleeved shirts made of UV-protective materials. Some die-hard anglers have even adopted wearing lightweight facemasks and gloves to prevent too much exposure to the sun.”
Johnson says people wanting to cover up should pay attention to the UV protection rating of the clothes they choose for days on the water.
“A plain cotton shirt doesn’t block all the UV rays, but new materials that do protect you are lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day,” Johnson said.
Sun not only stings the skin, but it saps your body of moisture, which can cause dehydration. Sugary or carbonated drinks can magnify the drying effect of the exposure to UV rays. It’s always smart to have some extra drinking water nearby and remember to take an occasional drink, even if you don’t feel all that thirsty.
“Alcohol isn’t something to rehydrate with, either,” Johnson said. “A lot of people may think a cold beer or alcoholic beverage will work, but alcohol actually reduces the amount of water that gets into their cells.”
Aside from contributing to dehydration, alcohol impairs judgment and can cause very dangerous situations for boaters and their passengers. The effects of alcohol are more potent when out in the summer heat because of natural stress factors like the sun, wind and waves rocking of the boat.
“A person who might have a drink or two at home and not feel anything may discover that same amount of alcohol really impairs their response time, balance and judgment when they combine it with the common surroundings of summer boating.”
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. Bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen or protective clothing and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you decide to drink, be aware of the added effects of the sun and don’t operate the boat. A designated driver is just as important on a boat as he or she is in a car.