Beach Safety 101
Experts offer advice for a safe day at the beach.
Alcohol and Swimming Don't Mix
"You should avoid alcohol while swimming," Brewster says. According to the USLA, alcohol can reduce your body temperature and impair your swimming ability as well as impair judgment, causing you to take unnecessary risks.
Float Where You Can Swim
"If you have a raft, don't take it any further from shore than you have the capability to swim," Brewster says. "If you are using a floating device such as a body board or raft, use a leash so that if you fall off, you don't lose the device," he recommends.
Steer Clear of Sharks
Each summer, we tend to hear about at least one horrific shark attack. In fact, in mid-June, a surfer died after a shark bit him in the left thigh in waters off northeastern Brazil that are known for large concentrations of sharks, according to media reports. But shark attacks are actually rather rare. In fact, worldwide there is an average of 50 to 70 shark attacks every year, according to statistics compiled by the International Shark Attack File.
"You are far more likely to be injured in a car accident driving to the beach than to ever even see a shark," says Brewster. To avoid becoming a statistic, "don't wear shiny jewelry or swim at dusk," Brewster suggests. "Shark bites are believed to be a result of prey identification mistakes where the shark thinks you are a fish or a seal."
Jumping Over Jelly Fish
"Generally you want to avoid any and all jelly fish," Brewster says. "If they are in the water, you may want to avoid the water or check with a lifeguard to determine what level of problems they are experiencing," he says. Still, "jelly fish stings tend to be annoyances rather than life-threatening events."
Mind the Water Quality
"Most communities test beach waters and are required to do so under federal legislation," Brewster says. "It's a good idea to find out what the water quality is before you go in because the results of poor water quality are gastrointestinal distress, ear infection, and occasionally more serious problems," he says. Some beaches will post updates on water quality, "but this is not something you can rely on as most testing is random and occurs on an infrequent basis," he explains. "By the time the signs are up, the water quality may have already been poor for over a day," he says. A good call is to avoid the ocean right after a rain fall. "If you have recently had heavy rainfall, there is a high likelihood that water quality may have degraded to at least some degree."
Slather on Sunscreen
Nothing can ruin a day at the beach like sunburn. Research has shown that sun exposure prior to the age of 18 significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancerskin cancer later in life, including the potentially fatal melanomamelanoma. New research has shown that sunburns after the age of 20 also increase the risk of developing melanoma. "You can substantially reduce your risk of getting burnt and developing skin cancercancer by taking certain precautions," says Bruce Katz, MD, the director of the JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City.