Your Safest Summer At The Beach

Jun 23, 2017
Laurie Montgomery

Summer is officially in full swing. Vacationers flocking to Carolina and Kure Beach will be enjoying sun, sand and hot summer days. The ocean and pools are the perfect place to cool off and have fun while doing it. Many people grow up enjoying the water and the heat, so remembering the risks involved often fall by the wayside. Summer vacation is the perfect time to teach children and remind adults that beach, water and heat safety are important to be aware of while enjoying your vacation.

Your Safest Summer At The Beach

Your Safest Summer At The Beach

WATER SAFETY
Be a strong swimmer
Whether it is the ocean or the pool, be aware of your limits if you are not a strong swimmer. Pools are contained and quite a bit safer, however, being aware of what is going on around you could be life-saving. At a pool, if several people are jumping into the pool, stay away from the edges so that you don’t get injured by being jumped on or pushed unexpectedly under the water. If in the ocean, pay attention to flag indicators. If the color is cautionary in any way, stay closer to the shore. Take a float into the water, or encourage young children to wear a life jacket. Undertows can be unexpected and swift!
Pay attention to where you step
Remember that you are sharing the ocean with marine life. The ocean is their home and you are the visitor, so respect their home. If water visibility is clear, make sure you stay clear from obstructions in the sand. It could just be a shell (which you probably don’t want to step on anyway), but it could also be a sea urchin or a jellyfish. Sea urchin quills could definitely hurt and require a doctor to remove from your foot if it’s big enough. Sea urchins are often dark in color and are easier to see in light colored sand. However, if seaweed or sea grass is present, you may not be able to see it. Avoid areas that you can’t see well into unless you have on water shoes. Jellyfish are harder to see since they are often very transparent. If you get stung, immediately remove any tentacles from the skin and rinse with vinegar. Make a baking soda paste, take a pain reliever and find the nearest lifeguard.
Check the depth
Pools often indicate the depth of the pool in each area, so be aware of where it is safe to jump in and dive at all times. Oceans are quite a bit different, though. The tide creates changes in the ocean floor, though it does remain the same most of the time. If you are jumping off of a pier, for instance, know approximately how deep the water is compared to your height if you are diving head first.
Know how to battle a rip current
First of all, always make sure a life guard is present when swimming in waters that don’t indicate a safe and calm environment. Rip currents are responsible for many deaths at the beach. Rip currents can form in open water areas, around piers and jetties, or around sandbars. Stay away from these areas and you are likely to avoid it.
If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Go with the current, even if it takes you further out. Swim parallel to the shore at all times until the current is out and swim back to shore. If you are too far out and can’t make it back to the shoreline, use large arm motions by waving your hands in the air and yelling. Tread water until someone comes closer to help you. If you see someone caught in a rip current, don’t go into the water. Throw them a life saving device and instruct them how to get out of the current and alert the nearest lifeguard.
BEACH SAFETY
Know the flag colors at the beach
Most beaches have flag indicators for the level of caution at the beach on that day. Conditions can change by the hour, however, so always pay attention to the color and know what it indicates. Typically, four colors are used : blue, red, yellow and green. Blue indicates that dangerous marine life is in the area. This most commonly means jellyfish, but could very well mean sharks are present in the area. Yellow flags indicate caution. The current and swimming conditions are typically moderate, not incredibly dangerous but enough to be aware that a rip current could be expected. Red almost always indicates that the current and surf is strong. You should avoid going into the water. Red flags may even mean the beach is closed, so check before you go. Green flags signal the optimum swimming conditions and calm waters. As always, exercise caution and remain alert but swim at your leisure.
Respect the turtles
Carolina and Kure Beaches are popular spots for nesting sea turtles. While this nesting behavior is fascinating and amazing to encounter, remember that it is a wild animal and its area should be respected. Oftentimes, professionals are monitoring sea turtle nests and can allow you to get close and give you tips on what to do. If a pro is not present though and you happen to see a baby sea turtle headed to its ocean home, there are a few things you can do for it. Do not pick the turtle up – they don’t need help getting to the ocean, just a clear path. If you see debris or beach equipment in its path, move it and let the hatchling continue on. If seagulls, pelicans or large birds are nearby, keep an eye on them so that the turtle makes it safely to the water without becoming bird lunch. Shoo and distract birds quietly.
If you see a nesting mother, do not approach her. Give her space to nest and never touch the turtle.
HEAT AND SUN SAFETY
Use sunscreen with the right SPF
Even if conditions are cloudy, use sunscreen. This has been preached for many many years, and for good reason. Just a few sunburns can lead to skin cancer. Use sunscreen that has a broad spectrum of both UVA and UVB and a sun protection factor of at least 15 (though some studies indicate at least 30 now). Reapply sunscreen when coming out of the water and about every 1-2 hours if staying dry. Wear a sun hat or protective clothing and limit sunbathing.
Have a shady spot
Set up under a tree if it is available or have a canopy or tent for a spot of shade. It can be much cooler in the shade than in direct sun. If someone is not a sun-lover they will appreciate the shade. Young children and babies need a lot of shade as well. Many beaches have tents available for rent, but if you want to rent something and not worry about setting it up, see our blog post on equipment rentals here.
Know what to do with sun stroke
Heat exhaustion, sun poisoning and heat stroke are all serious risks with being in the sun for too long. These are all caused by overheating and being dehydrated. Drink lots and lots of water, not soda or alcohol which will dehydrate you faster. Pack a cooler of water and keep it cold. Packing a wash cloth that has been wetted and frozen is a great thing to have in your cooler as well. It can be refreshing if you are simply hot and very helpful if someone is suffering a heat stroke. If this happens, get indoors to a cool area immediately and seek medical help.
The main things to remember is to know your limits and be aware of what is going on around you. Being prepared is the best way to enjoy those long summer days. Stay safe and make many memories!

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