As spring break 2021 approaches signaling the start of the beach season there are some points to consider that will keep you and your family safe all summer long.
The following are points to consider:
When visiting the beach, swimming ability should always be factored in. A day in the surf is not like a day in the pool. Unlike a pool, the beach has a different set of dynamics that can challenge even the strongest swimmers or even lifeguards for that matter. Swimming in the ocean requires a completely different set of skills and the use of different muscles. Weak swimmers may struggle when confronted with waves and currents such as strong lateral currents for example. A high level of confidence in that environment would be necessary otherwise it is best to stay on the shoreline. Any child that is not a swimmer should be kept on the shoreline at all times under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. Never leave them alone or take your eyes off them.
The Buddy System
We are pretty sure everyone growing up has heard of the buddy system especially when it comes to swimming. The buddy system has proven time after time to be a lifesaver for kids as well as adults. We highly recommend that children should continue to be taught about the buddy system. We realize that in many cases kids may not have a brother or sister so the buddy system may not work for them unless of course they are at the beach with friends. Otherwise close supervision is the responsibility of parents or guardians. If your buddy goes missing, notify the nearest lifeguard immediately and they will then radio a report to dispatch and a search can begin to locate the missing person. If you lose sight of your buddy in the water then time is of the essence to notify lifeguards. Please be sure to give the lifeguard the most accurate description of your buddy or child so they know what they are looking for.
Always Swim Near Lifeguard
One of the best pieces of advice we can offer is to always set up and swim near an open lifeguard tower especially if you have children. They are there to offer you and your family the best protection and by setting up near the tower you can easily flag the lifeguard should there be an emergency. It is also a good idea once you have found your spot to check in with the lifeguard to get the latest water conditions and hazards. The lifeguard will be more than happy to offer the information you are requesting such as known spots for rip currents.
Beach Flags – Know What They Mean
Green – Low hazard (exercise caution)
Yellow – Medium hazard (moderate surf and/or strong currents)
Single Red – High hazard (high surf and/or strong currents)
Double Red – Beach is closed
Purple or Blue – Dangerous/hazardous marine life (flown with either red or yellow flag)
Black Ball – No surfing
Rip currents are often mistakenly referred to as “rip tides” or “undertow”. These names are misnomers because although rip currents pull swimmers away from shore and they have nothing to do with the tides. They do not pull swimmers under. A rip current is a narrow stream of water traveling swiftly away from shore. Rip currents are formed when water piles up on the beach instead of flowing sideways away from the breaking waves as it normally does. Eventually, so much water builds up that the pressure cuts a narrow path through the waves back out to sea. The resulting current can be 30 to 100 feet wide and can move at speeds up to 5 miles per hour. Rip currents are common around piers and jetties so it is wise to avoid swimming near these things. Rip currents can be found anywhere else so caution should be taken while in the water.
Rip currents kill by dragging swimmers out into deep water. While fighting to swim back to shore the swimmer becomes exhausted, can no longer stay afloat and drowns.
Many non-swimmers are caught in rip currents when standing in shallow water. The powerful rip currents knock them off their feet and carry them away. Since they don’t know how to swim they invariably drown.
If you find yourself being pulled out to sea, don’t panic. You are caught in a rip current that you can swim out of. To get out of the rip swim parallel to shore. That is, swim so that the shore is either to your right or your left. Never swim against the current.
During the summer Southern California beaches are notorious for stingrays and those stingrays cause a lot of pain for beach visitors every year. In fact that is one of the most frequent calls we get is to assist a patient with a stingray injury. The persons being hit the most are surfers and body boarders. To avoid getting stung, simply shuffle your feet anytime you enter and exit the water. The very act of shuffling kicks up sand and debris sending a clear message to the stingrays to flee. Just remember that stingrays want nothing to do with people. If you should get stung, notify the nearest lifeguard so they can call in an EMS unit to evaluate and treat the sting. The sooner treatment is started; the sooner pain management can begin. A lifeguard unit will be dispatched with hot water and the lifeguards will be able to evaluate the severity of the injury.
Typically, initial treatment for stingrays is to submerge the affected extremity in the hottest water possible or that can be tolerated. The hot water will neutralize the protein in the venom and relief is often immediate. The extremity must be submerged for at least 45 minutes and in some cases, it can be hours. If there is a visible barb, do not remove it. Instead head to the nearest urgent care or ER to have it removed by a doctor.
Always Wear Sunscreen
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV Index predicts UV radiation levels on a 0 to 11+ scale; higher levels indicate a higher risk of overexposure to UV rays. The EPA also has a tool to check the UV Index for your area. In addition to the EPA’s sun protection messages, see below for CDC’s sun safety tips to help protect yourself and your family. You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade. Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side. It is best to purchase and wear polarized sunglasses.
Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
It is always important to protect your feet while walking, running or playing on the sand especially in the Southern California region. It is common on hot days for the sand to reach surface temperatures of up to 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and that could cause serious burns for people as well as pets. It is important to purchase and to wear sand socks or surf booties to protect your feet. These purchases could be made at local surf shops, sporting goods stores or even Amazon. It is better to go to a store and get fitted. There are many options available. If you do not have any protection for your feet or you forgot to bring your booties, some health officials suggest trying the “run, stop, bury” technique. This is just what it sounds like: you run as fast as you can to where you want to be on the beach, and if you feel your feet getting too hot, stop what you’re doing, and then bury your feet as far into the cooler sand below the surface as you can get. This is the fastest way to provide relief when you’re still on the sand.
If your feet do get burned from the sand, try soaking your feet in cool water, applying a soothing cream, hydrate yourself with water, and give your feet some time to recover before stepping on the sand again.
What we have presented here is a small list of beach safety pointers and if you do more research there are other things to consider such as weather, debris in the water or on the sand, algae (red tide), etc.
We want everyone visiting the beach to have a safe and wonderful time. It is never any fun if someone should become injured at the beach.