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Summer Safety Series: Beach Safety

Beach Safety

Whether you live close or far from the beach, swimming in the ocean is almost certainly part of most families’ summer plans. While some prefer to stay in the sand, many of those visiting the beach plan on going for a swim in the salty waves. The ocean can be a great time filled with laughter and fun if you follow the proper safety guidelines. Engaging in unsafe or reckless behavior could put you or a family member in a potentially disastrous situation.

Here are a few top tips from the American National Red Cross that can help keep you safe on your next beach day1:

  1. Swim in designated areas with a lifeguard present.
  2. Always swim with a buddy.
  3. Avoid areas with moving water, waves or rip currents.
  4. Stay within your fitness and swimming capabilities.
  5. Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim well.
  6. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.

It is important to understand the dangers of the beach. This includes rip currents, lightning, jellyfish, water quality, marine life, debris, as well as heat and sun burn.

It has been reported that “more than 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards” are due to rip currents.2 Rip currents are “powerful channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that quickly pull swimmers out to sea” that can extend from “the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves”.3 Remember, if you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not try and swim against it. Those who are caught should “swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle”.4

Aquatic life including jellyfish and harmful algal blooms can also pose a threat to swimmers. Jellyfish have tentacles attached to them that have the ability to sting. While most jellyfish stings result in only minor discomfort, the severity of the sting varies.5 If a person is stung by a jellyfish, rinse the sting with vinegar.6 Vinegar contains a weak acid that may prevent the sting from becoming worse. Some beaches post warning signs for dangerous marine activity. If you do not see a similar sign at a beach, be sure to ask a lifeguard about any potential dangers. If there are no signs or lifeguard present, it is best not to swim at that beach.

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1Beach Safety Tips." Beach and Ocean Safety | American Red Cross. 2019. https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/beach-safety.html.
2US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Ten Dangers at the Beach." NOAA's National Ocean Service. June 12, 2014. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/jul14/beachdangers.html.
3Ibid.
4Ibid.
5US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "What Are Jellyfish Made Of?" NOAA's National Ocean Service. April 12, 2010. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/jellyfish.html.
6"Jellyfish Stings." KidsHealth. March 2017. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/jellyfish.htm

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