May 25, 2021
by Colin Weerts, DO

Fishing brings great memories for children, parents and grandparents alike. There’s nothing cuter than seeing your kiddo reel in a fish, no matter how big or small your child or the fish!

Our children are keepers! To keep your kiddos safe, make sure your child is wearing a life jacket at all times when on boats, docks and bodies of water.

In Minnesota, all children under age 10 are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket at all times while in a boat. For older children and adults, Minnesota law requires an approved, properly sized, and easily accessible life jacket for each person on the boat.

Even though it’s not the law, the Minnesota Department of Resources recommends that everyone wear a life jacket when on the water. As a family medicine provider, I encourage life jackets for the whole family.  

Drowning can happen quickly and silently. The best way to prevent drowning is to make sure everyone is wearing their life jackets – Grandpa, Mom, Dad and teenagers too. 

In fact, men between the ages of 20 and 60 are least likely among all boaters to wear a life jacket according to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Men not wearing life jackets are also the most likely to drown while boating. 

Life jackets are especially important in the spring when the water is extremely cold. A fall into cold water triggers a cold shock response. Our reflex is to gasp and inhale water which may be breathed into the lungs and result in drowning. A life jacket can keep your head above water. Then in the first five to 15 minutes in cold water, cold incapacitation can set in. The arms and legs cool down, making your muscles slow, heavy, clumsy and numb. It can be difficult to swim and pull yourself up and into the boat. A life jacket can keep you afloat and give you time to be rescued and get back in the boat safely.

Wearing a life jacket is similar to wearing a seat belt in the car. Teach your children to wear a life jacket as you’ve taught them to buckle up. Life jackets, like seat belts, save lives. 

Selecting a life jacket for your child from MN Department of Natural Resources