No summer vacation would be complete without a trip to the beach and spending a day or two enjoying the sand, surf, and sun. While it may seem like a day at the beach is all about having fun and relaxation, there are certain types of dangers you’d want to be aware of and avoid. That said, while planning your summer getaway to the shore, be sure to brush up on your general beach safety guide as part of your preparation.
Apply ‘Broad Spectrum’ Sunscreen
Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays is essential since both can cause serious damage to your skin. Thus, make sure that you bring along a bottle of sunscreen, and do choose one that is labeled as ‘broad-spectrum’ since this type of sunscreen is more effective at blocking both types of ultraviolet rays.
Blocking both UVA and UVB rays is essential to your skin’s health since UVA rays are associated with wrinkling, dark spots, and aging of your skin, while UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn and are most associated with skin cancer.
Also, be sure to wear sunscreen even in the gloom and gray of an overcast day. Many people make the mistake of thinking that such weather conditions make it safe not to wear sunscreen, which is definitely not true. This is because although clouds definitely dampen the strength of the sun’s rays, they don’t kill them off completely.
Also, you’ll want to ditch those sunscreen pills. To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t accepted these pills as an effective replacement for the traditional topical sunscreen. Regardless of what the advertisement says, you’ll want to steer clear of them when you’re shopping for sun protection.
Wear Sun Protective Clothing
Aside from applying sunscreen, you can further protect your skin from sun damage by wearing appropriate sun-protective clothing. These pieces of clothing are specifically designed to help reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation that comes in contact with your skin and saving you from the potential harm it can cause.
Aside from specially designed fabric, sun-protective clothing also has other features that can provide you with more protection against the sun. For instance, some of these have flip-up sun collars to protect the back of your neck.
If you’re looking for effective sun-protective clothing, be sure to check its UPF rating (ultraviolet protection factor). This rating quantifies how effectively a piece of clothing shields against the sun, and the label means the fabric has been tested in a laboratory and consumers can be confident about the listed level of protection.
Besides, be sure to choose a sun protective garment with a looser cut. Steer clear of anything that fits too tight because a garment that’s stretched can become significantly less effective at blocking UV light. Also, choose quick-drying fabrics since wetness can cause a significant reduction in a fabric’s UPF rating.
Keep an Eye Out for Dangerous Marine Creatures
While swimming or surfing in the water, be sure to keep your eyes open for any dangerous marine creatures. Coming face to face with a shark is a rare occurrence, but jellyfish and sea urchins are a different story. If you ever chance upon any of these, do not touch or follow them. Instead, try to move away as slowly and as calmly as you can, creating as little disturbance in the water as possible. If any of your family or friends get stung by a jellyfish or any thorny creature, call the attention of the lifeguard and seek medical attention immediately.
Pay Attention to Large Waves and Surfs
Waves may be one of the reasons why you decided to cool off at the beach instead of the pool, and while waves are one of the most enjoyable features of the beach and ocean, they can be a cause of serious accidents at times. That said, pay attention to the large waves and surfs and be sure to know which type is safe to swim or surf on.
For instance, you’ll want to avoid swimming in creek and river mouths when a large surf is running because the currents in these areas are often stronger. The same is true for surging waves. These waves never actually break as they approach the water’s edge because the water below them is very deep. They can also be very dangerous because they can knock swimmers over and drag them back into deep water. Even plunging or dumping waves break suddenly and can knock you over and throw you to the bottom with great force. They can cause injuries to swimmers, particularly spinal and head injuries, so you should never try to swim and bodysurf on one of these waves.
Read the Safety Signs
The many signs at the beach are intended to help keep you safe and inform you about local regulations like shark sightings or rough waters. So as bothersome as it may sound, do read the signs when you first arrive at the beach, and please follow their instructions.
Look at the flags as well and know what they mean. Flags are flown by lifeguards to advise of hazards and regulations that change from time to time. You can usually find informational signs explaining the meaning of the flags somewhere along the entrance of the beach. If not, you can ask your friendly neighborhood lifeguards and have them explain it to you.
Beware of Rip Currents
Rip currents are different from undertows which pull you under the water. Instead, these are developed where there are breaking waves with the current being produced by the water draining from the beach and back out to sea.
Although rip currents always detectable, there are signs which can you can observe to know if they’re present. Some of these signs include water through a surf zone that is a different color than the surrounding water, a break in the incoming pattern of waves, isolated turbulent and choppy water in the surf zone, and seaweed or debris moving out through the surf zone.
If you are unfortunately caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Stay calm and relaxed and swim slowly and conservatively parallel to the shoreline. You can also tread water or float until the current slacks, you can escape the flow and swim back to the beach.
Being out in the sun will definitely make you feel dehydrated, especially if you’re on the beach where the heat and sun are bouncing of the water and sand. Hot temperatures, direct sunlight, and physical activities are the perfect combination for dehydration. That said, be sure that you fill your beach carts with lots of fluids and fruits that have high water content.
When choosing which drink to pack, it’s always best to stack up on water. There’s simply no substitute for the real thing. If you’re looking for something much tastier, then you could bring along some fresh coconut water. It is naturally hydrating because of its high electrolyte content and it’s a great alternative to sports drinks since it doesn’t have added sugars or chemicals.
Also, avoid drinking coffee, sodas, and energy drinks. Sure, they may taste much better than plain water, but in reality, these highly-caffeinated beverages will only dehydrate you more. They also contain caffeine which is a diuretic, so drinking a lot of it when you’re out in the heat is only going to make you feel thirstier.
Relaxing on the beach with a cold beer in your hand is one scene that you typically see in many TV commercials and ads. In fact, over the years beers have become a staple at beach parties and outdoor barbecues. However, drinking too much alcohol can impair your senses, thus leaving you vulnerable to accidents and injuries. That said, know your limits and listen to your body and buddies when they tell you that you’ve had more than enough.
Besides, alcohol is like caffeine in the sense that it pulls water from the body and causes dehydration. So if you really must drink a bottle or two to enjoy your beach vacation, then make sure that you’re taking in extra water to make up for all the water you’re losing.
Stay Safe While Diving
Jumping off a cliff may sound like an interesting and exciting idea, but it can also be a major cause for disaster. Year in and year out a significant number of spinal injuries are reported to have occurred on beaches. Accordingly, these injuries are commonly caused by participation in high-risk activities like being dumped headfirst by a wave, diving head first into the water, jumping off rocks (sometimes called ‘tombstoning’), hitting submerged objects other than the sea floor.
That said, one rule to always keep in mind is to not dive headfirst into unknown or shallow water. By jumping feet first, you greatly reduce the chances of you ending up in the hospital. Also, check for depth and obstructions before jumping in. And if you do decide to do any diving tricks just for fun or to impress your friends, be sure to do it from a safe height. If you feel any neck soreness or pain, treat it as a sign of potential spinal injury and seek help immediately.
Beach Safety Do’s and Don’ts
- Keep your phone nearby. When accidents happen at the beach, you’ll need your phone to contact the local authorities for help. Remember to keep your phone in an easy to reach pocket in your beach bag, and make sure that it doesn’t get wet.
- Stay in the shade. Avoid the sun between 10 am to 2 pm since this is when the sun is at its strongest. Instead of swimming or basking in the sun, head under your beach umbrella and read a book or listen to some music instead. If you do need to go under the sun during the said hours, be sure to apply some sunscreen.
- Protect your feet. Taking a walk along a strip of sand is one of the best ways to spend your time on the beach. But then, this can get really uncomfortable when the sand gets too hot, or when you’re spending the day on a rocky beach. An easy solution would be to pack along a pair of beach sandals or water shoes. These are specially designed shoes that let water flow in and out freely and offer excellent protection for your soles against sharp rocks and glass shards.
- Swim in areas where you can be easily spotted. Some people head to the beach on their own in search of that contemplative and relaxing ‘me time’. If you’re vacationing alone, you’ll want to swim in an area where you can easily be seen by a lifeguard for obvious safety reasons.
- Swim with a buddy. A significant of drownings involve single swimmers. That said, it is always best to swim with a friend. If one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help or call for assistance from the lifeguards or other people at the beach.
- Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). It may take a few minutes before lifeguards and paramedics can arrive in the place of the accident. During this time, you may just be able to save someone’s life if you are quick to apply CPR.
- Keep the beach clean. Do your part in keeping the beach clean by picking up after yourself and duly disposing of your garbage in the designated trash bins. This comes with the added benefit of keeping the beach safe from pests that can harm you or other people at the beach.
Globo Surf Overview
Take the time to review this general beach safety guide with your family or friends before heading to the beach, especially if you’re not familiar with the beach you’re going to. Also, stay proactive and account for anything that may go wrong. This way, you can help to ensure the well-being of everyone in your group so that you can all return from the trip safe and happy.
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- Stay Safe at the beach, Greatist