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Beach Safety 101

School's out for the summer and from coast to coast, families are heading to the beach. The anticipation of running into the cool water on a hot summer day is something many look forward to all year. The last thing on most of our minds is beach safety. Yet the estimated 60 million people visiting the beach each year in the US do not expect to spend time in the emergency room. Here are a few tips for having a happy, fun, and safe beach vacation.


It can take less than 15 minutes for some fair skinned people to get sunburned by the sun's UV rays. Thusly, sunscreen is a must at the beach. Be sure to apply sunscreen early, before you head to the beach, and often, at least every two hours. Sunscreen should at least be SPF (sun protection factor) should be at least 15. Recent reports have suggested sunscreen with high SPF are not as effective as advertised. Make sure you test out your sunscreen at home before heading on vacation. If you are using an older supply of sunscreen check the expiration date. The older the sunscreen, the less effective it can be.

To protect your eyes, make sure to wear your sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays. All sunglasses sold in the US must meet this requirement.

Clothing and Shade

The likelihood of finding that perfect palm tree that provides shade for your entire family is a mirage; therefore, an umbrella and clothing that protects your from the sun are a must. Many beaches allow you to rent an umbrella for the day and local stores often sale cheap portable umbrellas. This is an investment that is well worth the hassle.

Make sure you have a hat that is wide enough to cover face, ears, and neck. Straw hats are not recommended because of the holes that allow sunlight to pass through. Clothing should be lightweight, tight knit, and bright colors. Dark colors absorb light and light colors reflect. Some retailers now are making clothing with UV protection. While I have not personally purchased any, I would love to hear from anyone who has purchased such clothing and their opinions.

Ocean Swimming

Swimming in the ocean is different from wading in the pool. There are aquatic animals to avoid and rip currents to circumvent. When swimming with young child, make sure they are wearing Coast Guard approved life jackets and are in the vicinity of a life guard if available. As mentioned earlier, pool swimming and ocean swimming are different, while a child may have learned to swim at the local aquatic center, a child is not match for a rip current.

Also unlike the pool, the ocean does not have markers indicating how deep the water is. Shallow water is only a foot away from deeper seas. A single wave can cause a child to loose their footing and panic in the deeper water.

Protect your head and neck by not diving head first into the water. As mentioned earlier, shallow and deep water are only steps away from one another and the ocean is not marked with indicators for either.

Look out for aquatic life. Aquatic plants and animals may look harmless, but some close to the shore can be deadly. Sharks often mate in mid-Spring and can be in less than five feet of water. Seaweed can easily wrap around person and restrict their movement. Pay close attention to the flags on the beach. Experts in various marine areas provide important information on the health of the ocean daily. Below is the Universal Beach Warning Flag System.

When the beach is closed DO NOT SWIM IN THE OCEAN.

Rip Currents

According to the American Red Cross, rip currents are responsible for many ocean deaths annually. Beachgoers should be aware of how dangerous rip currents are, and swim only at beaches with lifeguards 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.

If caught in a rip current, do not fight it. People often panic and drown when if they try to swim parallel to the shore, they can swim out of the rip current and avoid disaster. If a person is not a great swimmer, they can float or tread free of the rip current until help arrives.

Beach vacations provide a treasure trove of lasting family memories. Make sure your memories are fun and safe.

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