Escaping the heat by hitting the water? How you and your family can have fun yet stay safe

Local rivers and lakes will be packed this week with Oregonians seeking relief from a heat wave with record temperatures on Sunday, June 27.

While the air temperature will be in the 90s and 100s, water temperatures in local rivers are decidedly colder. The temperature of the Santiam River is in the low- to mid-50s. Do not jump into the river without letting your body acclimate to its temperature. 

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when you’re cooling off near the water:

• Look before you leap. Underwater obstacles can cause significant injury or death.

• Never swim alone. Always swim with others, preferably in a supervised or lifeguarded area.

• Keep children under active supervision at all times.

• Wear a life jacket. They are simple to use and can prevent most drowning events.

• Experts recommend everyone wear a life jacket while you’re in or around water.

• Alcohol and water don’t mix.

Being competent in natural water requires additional knowledge and skills than in the pool. Whenever you are near a lake, river, stream or other natural water environment, watch and prepare for unexpected changes in air or water temperature. Also watch for fast-moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water.

The American Red Cross advises to always swim with a buddy and don’t allow anyone to swim alone. Do not use alcohol or drugs before or while swimming, diving or supervising swimmers.

Other point stressed by the American Red Cross :

• Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.

• Protect your skin. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.

• Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.

If you heading to the beaches for heat relief keep these tips in mind:

• The ocean rarely gets above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, though estuaries and coves may be higher.

• When walking on the beach web aware of your surroundings.  Always keep one eye on the ocean so you won’t be caught off guard if a bigger wave surges up the beach. These “sneaker waves” are unpredictable, powerful and can easily knock adults off their feet.

• Stay away from logs on the beach or in the surf. The logs absorb water like sponges, increasing their weight by up to several tons. The ocean is strong enough to pick up even the heaviest log and roll it over you.

• Know when the tide is coming in, especially when exploring tidepools or secluded beaches. Incoming tides can quickly leave you stranded away from shore. Be extra careful during extreme high or low tides and storms.

• Rip currents are fast-moving water channels that can carry even the strongest swimmers away from shore. If you’re ever caught in one, stay calm. A rip current is fast but narrow; swim parallel to the shore to escape it, then swim back to land at an angle.