Do not sled. Due to hidden dangers, often partially covered by shifting sands, sledding, inner-tubing, tobogganing, and snowboarding are prohibited in the park.
Stay off the ice. When frozen, Lake Michigan looks much like the Arctic. Unlike the arctic landscape that it mimics, this ice is full of hidden thin spots and gaps (often further hidden by a layer of snow). Venturing out onto the ice is a sure way to risk death.
Stay warm. Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothes (including headwear) and keep your feet and hands dry. Minimize exposed skin. Keep an eye on the wind chill to help prevent frostbite. Gently re-warm any waxy-looking skin and seek medical attention.
Dressing properly can also prevent hypothermia. Early signs of this potentially fatal cooling of the body include intense shivering, loss of coordination, and confusion. If you see symptoms, seek warmth and immediate medical care. Prime temperatures for hypothermia are actually above freezing between 30 – 50ºF. Don’t hike alone.
Do not swim when Rip Current warnings are posted or in large crashing waves, which can cause rip currents. These strong currents rushing out into Lake Michigan can carry even the strongest swimmer with them. If you get caught in a rip current, do not try to swim against it. Instead, swim parallel to the shoreline until you are out of the current.
Lake Michigan is generally clean and safe for swimming but it can become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Do not enter the water when a health hazard warning is issued or posted. If you do, you risk intestinal illness, skin rash, or eye, ear, or respiratory infections.
Insect Bites and Stings
Avoid diseases carried by biting pests by checking yourself for ticks after being outdoors. Use insect repellent and wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts, and tucked-in pants to help prevent both tick and mosquito bites. To help prevent mosquito bites, limit outside activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
Beware of yellow jackets and other stinging insects. Avoid loose-fitting clothing and bright, flowered prints. Do not wear sandals; avoid wearing perfume, lotion, and hairspray. Never swat at a flying insect. Look for insects before you drink from open beverage cans. When eating outdoors, keep food covered. Insect repellents DO NOT work against stinging insects. Seek immediate medical attention if you are stung and have symptoms of a systemic allergic reaction. Systemic reactions include hives, swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue, throat or sting area, intense general itching, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, nausea, and loss of consciousness.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion are exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, a rapid pulse, and pale and clammy skin. If the body is not cooled, a potentially fatal heat stroke may occur.This is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately. The onset of a heat stroke is marked by the absence of sweat and skin that is flushed and hot. To prevent these illnesses, take it easy on hot days, seek shade, drink lots of water, and dress lightly in layers.
Did You Know?
Without fire, there could be no prairie at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Non-prairie plant species would crowd out native prairie grasses. These rare grasslands are maintained through periodic controlled burns.