With Memorial Day weekend and summer vacations about to be in full swing after months of lockdown, beach season is upon us. Yippee!
Before building those sand castles and hitting the waves, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you, your friends, and your family stay safe.
1. Never mix lightning and water
Just like electronic devices and bathtubs don’t mix, neither do lightning and large bodies of water! If you can hear thunder, or if a storm is approaching, get out of the water and get off the beach immediately to seek cover in a large enclosed building or even your car.
In addition, stay alert and be attentive to any weather-related watches or warnings issued by the National Weather Service or local authorities for things like tsunamis, thunderstorms, and hurricanes.
Remember, the beach will always be there tomorrow. Your safety comes first. Always check the weather before heading out and monitor it while there.
2. Always look out for the signs
When you arrive at the beach, you should see a sign giving you all the information about the beach you’re visiting. Since not all beaches are suitable for swimming, don’t pass by any warning signs. They include important safety info on the hazards specific to the area and who to contact if an emergency were to occur.
If the beach you’re at is not lifeguarded, take extra care if you are going into the water. If lifeguards are on patrol, know where they are stationed and watch for warning flags and know what they mean.
- Green Flag: Low hazard- calm conditions
- Yellow Flag: Medium hazard- moderate surf and or currents
- Purple Flag: Dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, stingrays, or dangerous fish present
- Single Red Flag: High surf and or strong currents, exercise caution
- Double Red Flag: Closed to the public
Since beaches may differ slightly depending on the location, ask a lifeguard or beach patrol if you aren’t sure what the flag means before entering the water.
3. Respect the power of ocean riptides
Swimming in the ocean is very different from a pool. You’ll need to pay extra attention to water depths at drop-offs, rocks, debris, and strong currents - especially riptides. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are the cause of over 80% of rescues performed by beach lifeguards. In fact, over 100 deaths occur each year in the US due to rip currents.
If you’re caught in a riptide, here’s what to do:
- Don’t panic. Remember, riptides don’t pull you under.
- Don’t swim against the current. Rather, swim away and out of it, and then to shore.
- If you can’t escape the current, just float and/or tread water.
- Make sure to yell or wave for help.
If you see someone caught in a rip current or drowning, call the lifeguard or emergency services immediately.
4. Make an effort to wear SPF!
As glorious as sunshine may be, prolonged exposure can cause severe sunburn and sun damage and even increase your likelihood of developing skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, make sure to protect your skin with sunscreen that is broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. When you’re wet and sandy, we recommend using the spray-on kind for an added level of convenience!
However, sunscreen alone cannot fully protect you. In addition to wearing sunscreen, dermatologists recommend wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that are UV certified to protect your eyes when possible - yes, eyes can get sunburned too!
5. Don’t forget to pack your favorite mask if you aren’t vaccinated
Even as many of us are getting vaccinated across the country, there are still some who need to get their first or second dose, which makes wearing a mask still very necessary - even while at the beach.
In addition to your basic beach essentials, be sure to pack extra hand sanitizer, extra masks (the CDC suggests bringing two per person, in case one gets wet), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and disinfectant wipes. Check out this handy kit that you can just plop in your beach bag!
6. Don’t get lost
Unlike swimming in a pool, when you’re in the ocean you can easily end up blocks away from where you started due to strong currents. To make sure that you don’t get lost, pick out a landmark such as a lifeguard post or an umbrella of where you entered the water and keep an eye on it while you swim.
7. Never turn your back on the waves
As beautiful as they are, they’re also extremely powerful. In fact, according to a study by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and Beebe Medical Center, injuries resulting from strong waves can range from simple sprains, broken collarbones, and dislocated shoulders to more serious injuries including blunt organ trauma and spinal injuries. To prevent this from happening, avoid turning your back on the waves. Instead, face towards them so you know when they are coming.
8. Beat the heat
Staying out in the heat for a long period of time can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects reported by the CDC, such as confusion and dizziness, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, excessive sweating or lack of sweating, pale skin, swelling (particularly of the hands or face), rapid heartbeat, and confusion.
If you (or someone you’re with) displays any of these symptoms, get out of the sun and heat, remove any unnecessary clothing, drink plenty of water, and take a cool bath or shower. If any of these symptoms are on the severe side, seek medical attention immediately.
The good news? Heat-related illnesses are preventable. Make sure to bring and drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid drinking liquids like coffee or alcohol which actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Additionally, seek shade whenever possible!