Everyone loves the beach and water activities. Be it swimming, playing at the beach, snorkeling, or just relaxing in the sun at a sandy beach. However, ocean and beach can be a dangerous place if you are not paying attention.
In today’s blog, we are going to cover the Beach Safety, Ocean Safety, and Swimming Safety tips to make sure you’ll be equipped to take care of your and your family’s safety on your next vacation.
Whether you are at a beach or pool, swimming is a fun sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Swimming is also the most popular summer activity. That’s why it is important to know how to be safe while you’re in the water.
First thing first, if you do not know swimming, enroll yourself in swimming lessons. Also, if you have kids, you should consider enrolling them in age-appropriate swimming classes. Swimming can be a life-saving skill.
- When at the beach, please swim in designated swimming areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
- If you know swimming and floating, you should try to conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm if you are in trouble. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until assistance arrives.
- Carry appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
- Know how and when to call “9-1-1” (in the US) or the local emergency number.
- Enroll in a First Aid and CPR courses to learn how to respond to emergencies.
- Protect your skin. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least SPF 30.
- Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid or minimize drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
- Do not hyperventilate before swimming underwater or have breath-holding contests (unless there is professional and medical supervision present).
- Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shoreline, rivers, and lakes. Colder temperatures, flash floods, underwater currents, and other unforeseen hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
- If you and your family go out boating, make sure everyone wears approved life jackets. Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
- Always remove the cover completely from a pool before swimming. Partially covered pools are dangerous.
- If you’re caught in a current in a lagoon, ocean, or river, don’t try to swim against the current; swim across the current to gradually get out of it.
- Be extra watchful at dawn or dusk, as shark attacks are more likely to happen during these times.
- Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol and swimming is a dangerous combination. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance, and coordination which affects swimming skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.
Beach Safety for Kids
- Never let your child swim alone, even if she’s wearing armbands or a flotation tube.
- When swimming in the ocean, hold your child’s hand at all times and make sure your feet and hers can touch the ocean floor at all times.
- Although much fun can be had, don’t let your child drift in the ocean on an inflatable vessel or board, as the current can quickly drag a child out into the sea.
- Put children in bright swimming suits and rash shirts which are easy to spot in the water.
- Identify an easy to find point on the beach, such as the lifeguard tower, where the child can go to if you are separated. Teach the child to not panic and go to the lifeguard tower in case of separation.
Pool Safety for Kids
If you have kids, install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
- Ensure that the pool is secured with appropriate barriers. Pool barrier should be at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching, open outward or away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child. Always keep an eye on them. Remember, it takes only two minutes for a child to drown. (For adults, it is 3-5 minutes which is not a lot of time).
- If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use.
- Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.
- Spa baths and Jacuzzis aren’t safe for children because little children can’t support themselves in the swirling water. Keep these covered and locked.
- Teach your child never to dive into the unknown water. Train them to always jump in feet first until it becomes a habit. If it’s an unfamiliar pool, it could be too shallow to dive into, which can result in serious injuries.
- Teach children to always ask permission to go near the water. Maintain constant supervision. Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
- Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Every second count in preventing drowning, death or disability.
- Have young children and novice swimmers wear life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone. Life jackets are not a guarantee for saving your life.
Read: Adventure Travel – The Ultimate Guide
Ocean Safety Tips
Swimming in the ocean takes different skills, so before you get your feet wet, it’s best to learn how to swim in the surf. You should also swim only at a lifeguard-protected beach, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
- While you’re enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Make sure you swim sober and that you never swim alone. And even if you’re confident in your swimming skills, make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
- Have young children or non-swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets in water. No one should use any other type of floatation device unless they are able to swim.
- Don’t dive headfirst as it risks injury to your neck. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, and go in feet first the first time.
- Pay close attention to the waves. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause a loss of footing and balance.
- Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave the marine life alone.
- Don’t swim or surf in an ocean alone. Make use of buddy system. Tell others if you are going for surfing to call and check on you later that evening.
Beachgoers should be aware of how dangerous rip currents are and how they can be hard to spot sometimes. Most of the beach rescues and a lot of drowning incidents are due to rip currents. A “Rip” is a strong current beginning around the shore that runs away from the beach.
Being caught in one may feel like you are in a flowing river. Not all rip currents flow directly out to sea. Some may run parallel to the beach before ultimately heading out to sea. Swim only at beaches with lifeguards present and in the designated swimming area.
Rip currents can form in any large open water area, such as low spots and breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as jetties and piers.
How to spot rip current?
Although not always detectable, strong rip currents have the following signs:
- Water through a surf zone that is a different color than the surrounding water.
- A break in the incoming pattern of waves. It means there is an underwater rip going on.
- Seaweed or debris moving out through the surf zone.
- Isolated turbulent and choppy water in the surf zone.
Rip Current Safety Tips
If you find yourself in a rip current, be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following for your safety:
- If you are caught in a rip, try to stay calm and don’t fight the current. This is important.
- If you feel confident, Swim Parallel to the Beach – often this is towards the breaking waves which can then assist you back to shore. Once you are free of the rip, turn immediately, and start swimming towards the shore. Repeat this process until you are safely back to the shoreline.
- If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then try to head toward the shore.
- Try to draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help while floating to conserve energy.
- Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
- If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable tubes, boards, and yell instructions and show hand signs on how to escape the rip current.
- When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.
Large Waves & Surf
While waves are one of the most enjoyable features of the beach and ocean, they are affected by different conditions.
Plunging (dumping) waves break suddenly and can knock you over and throw you to the bottom with great force. These waves usually occur at low tide where sandbanks are shallow. They can cause injuries to swimmers, particularly spinal and head injuries, so you should never try and bodysurf on one of these waves. If in doubt ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety advice.
Spilling waves have white water tumbling down the face of the wave. They usually have less force and are the safest for body surfing. They are found in sheltered bays where the sea floor slopes gradually, and near sandbanks at high tide.
Surging waves may never actually break as they approach the water’s edge because the water below them is very deep. These waves occur in rocky areas around cliff faces and where the beach drops off quickly. They can be very dangerous because they can knock swimmers over and drag them back into deep water.
Large surf should only be attempted by experienced swimmers. Swimmers should also avoid creek and river mouths when a large surf is running because the currents in these areas are often stronger.
On average, shark-related deaths are one hundred times less likely to happen than a person drowning over the same period of time. If you are paying attention and usually don’t seek out marine life, chances are you’ll never encounter one.
Also, it is worth noting that there are over 360 species of sharks in the ocean, but only a few are perceived to be dangerous.
Shark Safety Tips
- Do not swim, surf or surf-ski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby.
- Do not swim in deep water beyond the breakers.
- Do not swim if you are bleeding.
- Do not swim near river mouths.
- Do not swim, surf or surf-ski near areas where trek-netting, fishing or spearfishing is taking place.
- If a shark has recently been sighted in an area where no shark spotters are present, consider using another beach for the day.
- First-time visitors to beach areas should ask the local law enforcement officials, lifeguards or locals about the area.
- Obey beach officials at all times.
- For kayaking or surf-skiing far out to sea, consider paddling in groups and staying close together (in a diamond formation).
- Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches.
Non-tropical marine stingers, such as the Bluebottle (Physalia) or Hair Jelly (Cyanea), may be found anywhere. Their stingers are not generally life-threatening but can cause distress and discomfort if you come into contact with them.
Tropical marine stingers, such as the Irukandji and Box Jellyfish, are classed as “dangerous”. Caution must be exercised when entering tropical waters during the ‘marine stinger season’, which generally runs from November to March.
If you get stung, the treatment will vary depending on your location and what type of stinger is involved.
Treating Jellyfish Sting
Try not to build sandcastles and play ball games where there are jellyfish around. But if you get stung, follow the treatment and tips, as follows:
- Remove the patient from the water and restrain if necessary.
- Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
- In areas where dangerous tropical jellyfish are found, and the species causing the sting cannot be clearly identified, it is safer to treat the patient with vinegar. Vinegar has shown to ‘disarm’ the jellyfish’s stinging cells. This helps prevent more toxins from entering the body.
- Liberally douse the stung area with vinegar to neutralize invisible stinging cells and Wash with Seawater to remove any invisible stinging cells. Do NOT wash with fresh water, use Seawater.
- If vinegar is unavailable, pick off any remnants of the tentacles with fingers (preferably with gloves). You may feel a harmless prickling on your finger, it’s okay.
- Remove all stingers by gently scraping them off with the blunt side of a knife or credit card. Don’t try to scrape them off with your bare hands or nails.
- The best treatment is hot water – as hot as you can take without burning. Then apply an ice-cold compress or ice pack.
- Apply cold packs or wrapped ice for pain.
- Apply a topical anesthetic cream like Stingose or Anthisan.
- Call for help, dial 9-1-1 or the local emergency number and get a surf lifesaver or lifeguard to help you.
- Assess the patient and commence CPR as necessary.
- If the victim’s condition is worsening, seek medical assistance and transport to the hospital immediately.
If there are bluebottles around, avoid swimming in the sea. Tell your kids not to ‘pop’ the bluebottles lying on the beach. And don’t pick them up.
If someone is bitten, then follow this procedure:
- Keep the patient at rest and under constant observation.
- Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
- Pick off any remaining tentacles with fingers (a harmless prickling may be felt).
- Rinse the sting area well with seawater to remove any invisible stinging cells.
- Place the patient’s sting area in hot water (no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate).
- If the pain is unrelieved by the heat, or if hot water is not available, apply cold packs or wrapped ice.
- Rinse the area with seawater as soon as possible (don’t use freshwater). Make sure you remove all the invisible stinging cells.
- When removing tentacles, gently rub sea sand on the tentacles that are attached to the affected area – this will help to remove them. Also, try to remove tentacles by hand. If possible, wear protective gloves.
- Immerse the affected area in hot salt water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Apply a topical anesthetic cream like Stingose or Anthisan.
Consult a doctor immediately if there’s persistent pain, itchiness, blistering and any symptoms of fever. Call for immediate help if there are any signs of breathing difficulty.
If you or your child gets a cut or would from broken glass or other sharp objects lying around on the beach, it’s important to stop the bleeding, avoid infection and prevent shock.
- Apply pressure (without pushing the object in deeper) to stop the bleeding.
- Don’t try to remove an object that’s embedded deeper in the skin yourself. Seek out the nearest doctor or hospital to attend the wound.
Preventing Spinal Injuries
Any neck soreness or pain should be treated as a potential spinal injury. Most spinal injuries occur around the beach by accident. No one plans for them. Being careful and using common sense is the best way to avoid them.
Serious spinal or neck injuries can happen by:
- Being dumped headfirst by a wave
- Diving headfirst into the water
- Jumping off rocks (also called cliff diving)
- Hitting submerged objects other than the seafloor
Beach First Aid Kit
A good travel preparation practice is to always find out where the nearest hospital or ambulance service is to your holiday destination. Also, carrying a travel first aid kit can come really handy when in sudden need.
Travel First Aid Kit
- Bandaids (regular)
- Non-sterile gauzes
- Crepe bandage (150mm)
- Rehydrate sachets (Dioralyte)
- High SPF Sunblock
- First Aid Dressing (FAD 3-5) – 75mm X 100mm X 2.2m
- Hydrogel Spray (treatment for wounds, cuts, burns, rashes)
- Burnshield (10 x 10) (burn dressings and burn gels)
- Thermal Emergency Blanket (Waterproof)
- Antiseptic solution
- Paper tape
- Antiseptic cream