The following tips are wide ranging, but all of them address simple beach safety.
- Avoid being a crime victim. Don’t take valuables to the beach or lock them in your car.
- Stay hydrated. A day of sun and fun can quickly turn into heat exhaustion or heat stroke if you don’t stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your trip to the beach.
- Wear sunscreen. Sand and water both reflect the sun so you will burn even faster than you would in a less reflective environment.
- Don’t swim alone unless someone on the beach knows you are in the water. Never let children or weak swimmers go into the water alone.
- Don’t rely on flotation devices like rafts, noodles, or inner tubes to keep you safe. Flotation devices are for fun, not safety. The only type of flotation device that can actually prevent drowning is a US Coast Guard Approved life jacket.
- Before entering the water survey the conditions from shore. Where are the waves breaking? Are the waves too big for your swimming ability? Are there flags indicating current water conditions. If so, green means low hazard with calm conditions; yellow means medium hazard with moderate surf and/or currents; red means high hazard with high surf and/or strong currents; two red flags mean water closed to the public; and purple means dangerous marine life. If there is a lifeguard present, ask the lifeguard for specific information about that beach’s swimming conditions.
- Don’t panic if you get caught or knocked down in the waves. If you’re in the path of a breaking wave, dive under it and let the wave break on the surface completely missing you. Most of a wave’s power is where it breaks. If a wave catches you by surprise and knocks you over, go with it. Don’t fight it because it is more powerful than you. Hold your breath and let it wash you to shore. Get up as soon as you can to avoid being hit by another breaking wave.
- Avoid the water near rocks, piers, and other structures since rip tides often occur near them. Also, you don’t want to be swept into them if a sudden large wave comes along.
- Rip currents are survivable. “Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves.” (http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov) The experience of being in a rip current is often compared to being in a swiftly flowing river. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it or try to swim directly back to shore. Instead swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current. Then you can swim back to shore. If you can’t swim out of the current, tread water until help comes.
- Avoid jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war. If you are stung:
- Pour a lot of vinegar on the location of the sting. This will help deactivate any nematocysts that have remained lodged in the skin.
- Never rub the location of the sting. It will cause embedded nematocysts to discharge their venom and aggravate the symptoms of the sting.
- If you do not have access to vinegar, use seawater to clean the rash. Never use fresh water for this purpose as fresh water can also cause embedded nematocysts to discharge their venom.
- If there are any remaining tentacles attached to the skin, wear gloves and use a pair of tweezers to remove them. Never touch the tentacles of a jellyfish. Even when they are not attached to the jellyfish, the nematocysts are capable of injecting venom into your flesh.
- You could also use a sterilized razor to remove any adherent nematocysts after applying shaving cream or baking soda to the location of the sting.
- Never tie the area of the sting and close off the blood circulation. This will increase the toxicity levels in the area and can cause a lot of damage and may even lead to amputation.
- Use of painkillers is advisable if the pain caused is very high.
- If you have trouble breathing or show any signs of a severe allergic reaction, go to the nearest emergency room.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin
Rip current graphic courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/485sj3l
Warning flag photo courtesy of Lisa Dworkin