Eight Tips For Staying Safe At The Beach

Ocean safety is the key to a fun time at the beach. Follow our tips to stay safe.

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• Travel: Attractions • Travel: How-To
• Travel: Tips & Tricks

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Heading to the beach can be both a fun and cheap way to spend the summer. As with any activity, it's important to remember that it's possible to pick up a vacation ruining injury -- or worse -- if you aren't careful. Here are eight tips for staying safe at the beach each summer.

Keep A Close Eye On The Kids


The beach can be a lot of fun for kids, but it is filled with tot-sized dangers. The danger of drowning in the ocean should be obvious to most parents, but many may not realize that children playing near the edge of the water are also in danger from a sudden high wave. In addition, remember that there's also water behind you in the form of resort swimming pools, so don't allow children to run out of sight behind you assuming they're safe. Also be aware of things in the sand that might stick their feet as well as shells, sea life, and a wide range of other items you don't want them putting in their mouths.

Use Coast Guard Life Jackets For Kids And Non-Swimmers


There are a wide range of water wings and other flotation devices on the market. These might make for good pool toys, but they won't help keep a non-swimmer safe in the ocean and might actually hinder their ability to deal with the waves. In addition, they might make the wearer braver than they otherwise would be and lead to them swimming too far out. Always use a Coast Guard approved life jacket for safety, and remember that no flotation device can make up for proper supervision by someone capable of swimming out to help.

Never Dive Into The Ocean


Always go in slowly and feet first. Ocean water is almost always cloudy, and you have no way of knowing what's beneath the surface. Sandbars can lead to fast depth changes from deep water to water that's just a few feet deep. The bottom may also be covered in rocks, other sharp objects, or marine life that may be harmful.

Do The Shuffle


If you're swimming in warm water, one thing you can be pretty sure is on the bottom during summer months is stingrays. These fish sit buried in the sand in shallow water and have long tails with a poison-tipped barb that deliver an incredibly painful sting if you step on them. Luckily, they want to get away from you if given the chance, and you can scare them off by shuffling your feet and kicking up sand.

Know How To Handle Rip Currents


Rip currents are powerful currents starting near shore that pull you out into open ocean. Warning signs may be posted on a guarded beach, but rip currents can occur at any time. If you are caught in a rip current, never try to swim against it. Instead, swim parallel to the shore and the current until you no longer feel its pull. From there, you can swim to shore. If you feel you are being pulled out too far or are getting tired, wave and yell for help.

Stay Away From Piers, Rocks, And Docks


They can seem like an interesting place to swim, but are one of the most dangerous places you can go. Because of this, make sure kids of all ages know to stay away and keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't succumb to temptation. Currents change quickly in these areas and can pull you out into open water or bang you into the rocks or other hard surfaces. In addition, if sharks do come close to shore, this is a prime area for them because it provides a good hiding place and also attracts a lot of smaller fish.

Try To Find A Beach With Lifeguards


Whenever possible, head to a beach with lifeguards, and only go in the water when they are present. They don't replace your responsibility to keep yourself and your children safe, but they can provide emergency assistance if something does happen. They'll also be familiar with hazards such as rip currents and stingrays, so stop by for a chat when you arrive.

Keep An Eye On The Weather


It's easy to lose yourself at the beach, but be aware of what's going on with the weather. It can change more quickly at the beach than in most areas and probably won't follow the patterns you're used to at home. You want to have plenty of warning if a storm approaches, especially if you are far from shelter, to avoid being struck by lightning or just getting soaked by rain as you try to pack up and get back to your car.
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