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Aquatic Accidents

Precautions Prevent Problems

By Amy Morgan


The splash of a paddle, the purr of an outboard motor or the gentle roar of the surf are the sounds of summer when temperatures reach triple digits. Before you plunge into one of Texas’ lakes, rivers or beaches, make a plan to ensure the safety of everyone in your party. And rest assured, the professionals at Physicians Premier freestanding emergency room, located west of Highway 281 on Highway 46 near the HEB Plus, are ready to help if an outing on the water doesn’t end up as planned.


Physicians Premier founding partner Lonnie Schwirtlich, M.D., has been an emergency physician for the past 42 years. An avid fisherman and surfer, he’s had the opportunity to participate in numerous water activities. He cautions parents never to leave children unsupervised around any type of water. 


“It only takes five minutes for someone to drown and be past the help of resuscitation,” he said. He advocates making sure children learn to swim as early as possible. “You want them to be able to save themselves if they fall in the water for any reason,” Dr. Schwirtlich said. Motivation to sign your little ones up for swimming lessons immediately!


In case it’s an adult in trouble, Dr. Schwirtlich reminds a potential rescuer to throw a life jacket or rope to pull the person to shore. “Don’t just jump in,” he cautioned, because a person is liable to pull you down with them in their panic.

Put on that life preserver when in a boat or on a jet ski in case the craft overturns or you fall out. A flotation device will keep you buoyant, especially if you hit your head and are unable to swim. Likewise, never dive in water where you can’t see a possible obstruction or if the water is flowing, Dr. Schwirtlich warned. Even if you check for obstacles, a submerged log could drift into your landing spot while you are climbing up the cliff. A careless dive is not worth a broken neck!


When fishing or water skiing in fresh water, don’t drift too close to the shoreline – a prime nesting spot for Water Moccasins. These aggressive snakes will come after you if you disturb them. Their bite is poisonous and requires immediate treatment. If bitten, keep pressure and ice on the wound to prevent venom from spreading and head to the emergency room, Dr. Schwirtlich said.


Saltwater creates another hazard – the potential for flesh eating bacteria to penetrate the skin through a puncture wound caused by a hook, catfish spine or stingray barb. If you step on a stingray, their automatic response will be to immediately flip up their spiny tail. Dr. Schwirtlich speaks from experience when he reminds people to shuffle their feet when wading. Soak the affected area in water as hot as you can stand to relieve the pain and visit the ER for a course of doxycycline to prevent infection or worse.


Likewise, encountering jellyfish tentacles is an all-too-common occurrence on Texas beaches. Did you know ammonia and meat tenderizer change the composition of the toxin and will relieve pain? Dr. Schwirtlich recommends spraying a stung area with window cleaner with ammonia D and then sprinkling on meat tenderizer.


You can relax this summer knowing that the professionals at Physicians Premier are ready to help if and when you need them, saving time, money, alleviating concern and allowing for a healthier patient and community. Find them at

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