Summer is near, and for many South Floridians, that means beach season. As you grab your swimsuits and sunscreen, it is important that you are also prepared to handle the risks associated with being in or around the ocean.
There is always a risk of drowning near bodies of water, it is important to use precaution and take the necessary steps to keep your family safer around the water. While the Safer 3 is a great resource for water safety tips, there are a few additional risk factors to consider when you head to the beach. Here’s our best advice on keeping your family safer at the beach.
Be aware of conditions
Unlike an indoor pool, the beach is not a controlled environment. Before you pack the car and go, be sure to check local weather listings to make sure there are no warnings for heavy rain or lightning storms. You should avoid the beach if there are any signs of poor weather, but if you happen to get caught at the beach during a storm, get off the beach immediately and head to a building or your car. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before entering the water.
You should also be sure to familiarize yourself with the posted signs and flags. Florida’s beach warning flags use four colors to alert beachgoers of the day’s water conditions. Red flags represent a high hazard and indicate high surf and strong currents. Yellow flags represent a medium hazard with moderate surf and currents. Green flags represent a low hazard, though you should still exercise caution. Purple flags indicate dangerous marine life – such as jellyfish – and they are usually flown together with a red or yellow flag.
Swimming in the ocean requires more strength and skill than swimming in a pool or small body of water. Inexperienced swimmers can experience difficulty navigating waves and currents. Rip currents are especially dangerous because they can’t always be seen from the shore. Rip currents are strong currents that can pull even the strongest of swimmers out to sea. You should know that if you get caught in a rip current, you should never try to swim against it. Instead, swim horizontally to the shore until you no longer feel the pressure of the current pulling you. Then swim diagonally towards the shore. If you find yourself struggling, wave your arms in the air and call for help immediately.
When you head to the beach, don’t forget your water watcher tag! There should always be a designated adult supervisor monitoring the water whenever there are children or inexperienced swimmers in or around the water. The water watcher should be prepared to take action in the event of an emergency, this means no alcohol, no distractions and making sure there is a phone nearby. You should also make sure that adults and children who cant swim are equipped with a U.S.Coast Guard approved life jacket.
Whenever possible, settle in a space near a lifeguard. Most drownings occur at unguarded sites. Lifeguards are trained to see potential dangers and save lives in the event of an emergency. Even if you’re swimming directly in the lifeguard’s area of vision, checking in with them can give you up-to-date safety information and advice about the day’s surf. Staying informed is always good practice.
Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen
The sun is a very real danger and not just on a hot, sunny day! Sunstroke, heatstroke, and sunburn are risks that you take any time you’re outside and especially when you’re lounging on the beach. Clouds don’t mitigate all the risks posed by the sun, either.
It’s important to make sure you’re properly protected against the elements. Sunscreen is necessary to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Always reapply after swimming and top up at least every 3-4 hours.
Staying hydrated is also key to avoiding sun and heat stroke. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and retreat from the sun if you’re starting to feel faint, dizzy, or unwell in any way.
Don’t forget to have fun! When you are prepared and equipped with the knowledge to keep your family feeling confident safer around the water, it makes it that much easier to enjoy the moment.
At Ocaquatics, it is our mission to teach families to love swimming and to become safer, more comfortable and more responsible around the water. If you’re interested in fun swimming lessons that will help your child feel safer, smarter and more confident, contact Ocaquatics today!