Photo: Phillip Pessar
August is here, and for a lot of us that means breaking out of the daily grind and heading for the beach. You’ve got your swimsuit, plenty of towels, shades, and your favorite flip-flops. Ready to go, right?
Not so fast, Sparky. The beach is a great vacation destination, but there are risks as well, and you want to be prepared. Before you leave, check out our top 3 beach safety tips.
1. Swim Safe
The ocean presents some dangers that you don’t have to worry about at your neighborhood pool, but there are steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe.
Make sure you and your kids know how to swim. Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. The United States Lifesaving Association recommends teaching your children to swim as early as possible, since older children may avoid swimming lessons.
You should also:
- Swim near a lifeguard. Swimming at a guarded beach greatly reduces the risk of drowning.
- Swim sober. Nearly 22% of drowning injuries for people ages 15 and older are alcohol related.
- Swim with a buddy. That way if you get in trouble, someone can signal for help. Both adults and children should avoid swimming alone.
- Be aware of the dangers of rip currents. Always check the beach forecast before you leave, and look for any warning signs or flags once you arrive.
- If you do get caught in a rip current, don’t try to swim against it. If you can, swim parallel to shore until you are free of the current. If you can’t do that, relax and float until you are free of the current, then head for shore.
2. Wear Sunscreen
Photo: Alex Liivet
Everyone loves a golden tan, but you may pay for it later. Even one bad sunburn in childhood or adolescence can increase your risk for skin cancer, but tanning and milder burns at any age can also add up to serious skin damage. Stay safe by following these guidelines for maximum sun protection.
- Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. If you have pale skin or are sensitive to sun damage for any reason, a higher SPF, such as 30 or 50, is recommended.
- Make sure you use broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply at least every 2 hours.
- Choose water-resistant sunscreen for the beach to maximize your protection.
3. Watch Out For Ocean Life
The big story in the Mid-Atlantic this summer is sharks, thanks to an increased number of attacks in North Carolina. There have been eight attacks in the state this summer. There’s no clear-cut cause for the uptick, but numerous reasons have been suggested—everything from increased ocean salinity to higher than usual beach attendance.
Protect yourself from attack by swimming in groups. Sharks are more likely to attack a single person alone. Also avoid swimming at dusk or in the dark when sharks are most active.
Statistically speaking, though, shark attacks are quite rare. You’re much more likely to encounter jellyfish on your trip to the beach. While most jellyfish stings are not life threatening, they will certainly put an end to your relaxing day at the beach. Avoid jellyfish in the water, and don’t touch them if they wash up on shore.
Photo: Mike Johnston
Looks like you’re ready to hit the sand. What are your tips for a fun and safe beach vacation? Leave a comment below!