Safety at the Beach

Using common sense at the beach for a perfect outing

Where there is a beach, there is water and where there is water there is potential danger. It doesnít take a rogue wave or tsunami to cause trouble; people have been known to drown in as little as a couple of inches of water.

Lakes and oceans are different, especially regarding tides, and tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye; having the knowledge you need to protect you and your family and friends is half the battle. Awareness is crucial.

But itís not just water that commands your attention when youíre thinking safety at the beach. We have put together this article to help you ensure your day, weekend or vacation at the beach is flawless and fun.

Water Dangers

Things like rip tides and heavy currents, or excessively large waves can make for a scary visit. Tides, also, with their powerful draw as they go out, have the capacity to pull a child, dog, or even an adult out to sea.

If you are going to a beach on an ocean (any saltwater beach), do your homework. Contact the local authorities via phone or internet and get a list of the tide times. The most common mistake people make about tides is that they happen at the same times every single day; they donít.

Also important is water depth and how slowly the water becomes deep. A gently inclined beach sometimes leads into water where the sand bottom drops off suddenly. Have an adult who is a proficient swimmer check the depth and angle of the water before permitting others to enter.

Lakes might seem more innocuous than oceans, but they contain their own dangers, like weeds in which swimmers can become tangled, polluted water, and boats and water skiers.

And this might seem like pointing out the obvious, but try to find a beach that is patrolled by qualified (preferably certified) lifeguards. Pay heed to posted warnings and if a lifeguard orders the water cleared, get thee to the beach anon!

Always remember the golden rule of beaches and water:

NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO THE OPEN WATER

Animal Threats

While Jaws might have been fictional, people are injured and killed by sharks every year just off the beaches of the world, often close to shore. Jellyfish can sting, even kill, and some rays are poisonous. Even seemingly innocent animals like sea urchins can harm you if you step on one and cut the soles of your bare feet.

Land animals can also present danger at the seaside or by a lake. Some northern lakes are situated in bear country; southerly ones may have snake populations. And every beach in the world, with the possible exceptions of the two poles, has insects, some of which have harmful bites or stings.

Do your research about the beach. With the internet available to everyone at home, work or in libraries, there is no excuse for ďI didnít knowÖĒ.

Animals are usually predictable. For example, bears are more active at night, so stay away from that gorgeous lake in the Rocky Mountains at night. Ask your hotel concierge in Barbados what dangers lie in the waters and if there are particular times of the day or year when jellyfish present a hazard. Accordingly, steer clear.

Itís always smart to carry bug repellent in your beach bag, along with your sunscreen (see the section on that in this article). Can you use a weapon against seriously dangerous, large animals? Laws vary, so check with local authorities. It may not be okay to club a shark in the waters off the beach in Durban, South Africa. A first aid kit might be a better idea.

Human Hazards

Odds are much higher that you will encounter unsavory people, rather than scary animals, at a beach. Not everyone has good manners and those who donít wonít have them on the beach either. Always be courteous to other beach-goers because if youíre not, then you will have no clout when it comes to having to discipline someone else.

Keep children and dogs close to your chosen beach spot and donít let them run all over other peopleís beach towels. Never throw sand, not even in jest. Keep your radio or iPod turned to a level that does not interfere with the peace and quiet, or use earphones (but that can be dangerous if you are unable to hear outside sounds!). And donít leave your litter behind; the beach does not come equipped with a maid service!

Beaches vary in their crime levels depending on their location. Usually areas that are slightly higher in crime boast a police presence, but being vigilant is your best bet. Leave valuables locked in the trunk of your car or in a safe at your hotel.

At certain tropical locales, vendors, often young people, cruise the beaches trying to sell their wares. This is seldom dangerous, but be wary when you take out your wallet; keep minimal cash on your person.

Food and Health Matters

By now we all know that sun gives us a happy-making dose of Vitamin D and is part of our good health. Sun, too, as we all know, can burn your skin and make you prone to skin cancer. Always pack sunscreen in your beach bag. The lighter your skin, the more prone youíll be to burns and cancers, so choose your sunscreen SPF accordingly. If youíre in the company of elderly adults or young children, be sure to find shade, even if you create it yourself with a beach umbrella.

Thereís no meal more fun than a beach picnic, unless the food spoils due to lack of refrigeration. When you pack your cooler, be sure that there is ice or ice packs on all sides with the food in the middle. Once the food is placed in the cooler, top it up with loose ice. Wrap all food items tightly in plastic wrap, not aluminum foil. Never pack dairy products, other than pasteurized hard cheese, and never use mayonnaise.

Otherwise, take care of your feet. Sand can get very hot and burn the soles of bare feet. Water-sandals are great, or a comfy pair of sneakers. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Be cool. And been seen being cool!

Now youíre educated on matters of beach safety and can pack your cooler and beach bag with the right stuff for a great beach visit. You can be safe and still have lots of fun. And one more thing. Donít feed the lifeguards. (Kidding!)

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