Surviving Rip Currents
A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows away from the shore. Rip currents often form at breaks in sandbars and near jetties and piers. They can be narrow or more than 50 yards wide. Rip currents are common and can be found on any beach with breaking waves, including large lakes. The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that rip currents account for over eighty percent of all beach rescues and over 100 deaths annually at our nation's beaches.
When you arrive at the beach, ask the lifeguard about water conditions and any rip currents that may be present. Rip currents contain choppy water that creates clouds of sediment or sand, which change the color of the water. Look for a channel of brown foamy water, possibly containing seaweed or debris that is moving out to sea.
If caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current. A rip current will pull you away from the shore, but it will not pull you under water. To escape, swim parallel to the shore, until you are out of the current. Then swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.
If you are unable to escape, face the shore, float or tread water and call or wave for help. If the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore. If you see someone caught in a rip current, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard isn’t present, yell instructions on how to escape. f possible, throw the victim something that floats and call 911 for help. DO NOT try to rescue the victim yourself. Many people have died trying to rescue others from rip currents.
The key to drowning prevention is constant, attentive adult supervision.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death to children ages one to four, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death to children ages 14 and under. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized for near drowning. And as many as 20 percent of near-drowning survivors suffer severe, permanent neurological damage.
Childhood drownings happen quickly and silently and they can happen anywhere, beaches, pools, toilets, even buckets. Children often drown because they were left unattended, or there was a short lapse in adult supervision. “Supervision” means watching your child at all times, not occasionally glancing while reading, talking or napping. When you are at the beach, lake, river or pool, stay within close physical proximity to your child. Do not depend on the presence of a lifeguard to ensure their safety. Always supervise your child anytime they are near water.
Common Beach-Related Injuries
Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that 12,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury each year. Approximately 8 percent are suffered during a recreational activity. Spinal cord injuries occur at our nation's beaches every year, usually as the result of diving headfirst into the water or being tumbled in the waves by the tremendous force of the ocean. These injuries can result in complete or partial paralysis or even death.
The sun keeps us warm, gives us light and makes all living things grow. Our planet would not exist without the sun. But the sun also sends out harmful utlra-violet radiation (UVA and UVB rays), that can cause blistering sunburns, wrinkled skin, eye damage and skin cancer. Keep your skin healthy by following these skin protection tips:
- Apply a waterproof sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and UVA/UVB (broad-spectrum) protection, 15 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming. There’s no such thing as all-day protection, even if your sunscreen is waterproof.
- When possible, avoid exposure to the sun during the peak hours of 10:00 to 4:00, when the sun is strongest.
- Wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Wear a hat, canvas is best, with a brim all the way around. Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made of tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. If this isn’t possible, wear a dry t-shirt or a beach cover-up and boost your protection by always wearing sunscreen.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
Cuts, abrasions and fractures
Cuts, abrasions and fractured or dislocated shoulders, wrists and ankles frequently occur from inappropriate use of sports equipment such as surfboards and boogie boards. To avoid these types of accidents, familiarize yourself with your equipment. Make sure it is the appropriate type and size for you, and know your limitations when using it.
Never bring glass containers to the beach. Broken glass, hidden under the sand, is a potential booby trap for anyone in bare feet.