Summer Safety Series
Part 6 – Beach Safety Tips
Let’s go to the beach! We are so lucky to live in an area that has some of the best beaches in the world! Each year, St. Pete, Clearwater, and Siesta Key Beaches make it into at least one of the many “Best Beaches” listings. Recently, the Travel Channel touted Clearwater Beach as “One of America’s finest white-sand beaches” (www.travelchannel.com).
But, that’s not new news to any of us residents! Because we all enjoy Florida living and our pristine beaches, we thought it would be prudent to review some beach safety tips and help keep your family accident free.
First and foremost, make sure that you and your family know how to swim and are comfortable in the water. If a member of your family has not learned to swim:
- Never leave them alone in the water
- Try to swim at beaches that have lifeguards
- Use Coast Guard-approved flotation life jackets and devices. Don’t rely on beach store accessories like noodles or body boards for protection.
Remember, we live close to the equator and that means UV rays are high here and are known to increase your risk of skin cancer. Sunburns are actually the most common hazard of the beach. To avoid sunburns:
- Avoid sun peak hours, typically from 10am to 4pm
- Use waterproof sunscreen liberally
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after going into the water
- Wear hats and loose fitting clothes
- Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of both UVA & UVB rays
Swimming at the beach is much different than a dip in a swimming pool. Current, waves, marine life and swiftly changing conditions make it a different experience. Educate your family on what to look out for and how to deal with accidental situations should they appear. Also, avoid areas of dense vegetation. For instance, storms often bring in large clumps of seaweed that can obstruct your vision of what’s in or below the “clump”.
Riptides. A riptide is a narrow and powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the shore. You won’t know where a rip tide is until you are in it. If you accidentally find yourself in a rip tide, first and foremost, don’t panic and don’t try to swim back to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the shore. Riptides are relatively narrow and you will be able to swim out of it this way.
Beach Debris. Often storms or strong tides will bring items such as glass, sharp broken shells and jellyfish onto the beach. The Healthy Women website (www.healthywomen.org) suggests that you:
- Wear beach shoes both in and out of the water to protect your feet from sharp objects and marine life
- Check the area before you put down your beach towel and move anything that looks like it could cause injury
It’s always a good idea to check beach advisories before heading out. If you hear thunder, even in the distance, take shelter. Lightning does strike water and you don’t want to accidentally get struck. The beach is not a good place to be during a thunderstorm. The Red Cross (www.redcross.org) suggests that you not swim for at least 24 hours after exceptionally heavy rain if your beach is in a densely populated area. Stormwater run-off from the streets and drainage may pollute the water that’s close to shore.
A day at the beach is fun. Follow these safety tips and enjoy your summer at the beach!