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Beach Safety 101

Experts offer advice for a safe day at the beach.
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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.

"The first thing is wearing sunscreen, but it's not just about sun protection factor (SPF), it's also about the other ingredients," he says. Choose sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

"These ingredients block both ultraviolet-B (UVB) and ultraviolet-A (UVA), while other ingredients block only UVB," he says. Choose an SPF of 15 or higher.

Remember that "none are sweat-proof or rub-proof, so they all have to be reapplied every two hours, particularly if you are sweating or swimming," he says. It's also important to wear hats with broad rims and sunglasses with protection built into the lenses. "The sunlight is most intense from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.," he says. "Be careful and stand under an umbrella, and remember that the sun is a lot stronger than it was 10 or 20 years ago because ozone has thinned out."

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Reviewed on July 02, 2007

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