people sting on beach chair in yosemitie national park

The arrival of summer and the decision to head for the beach go hand in hand for many people. Sun, sand and surf can be the ultimate in vacation experiences. Before you head out for the beach this summer, pay attention to some of the dangers you may face and make sure you know how to avoid them, or, if you do encounter them, how to manage the situation.

1. You may be craving that golden glow of a rich suntan, but be careful. Sunburn can be painful and unattractive, but that’s nothing compared the potentially disfiguring and life threatening effects of skin cancer. Take precautions by using suntan lotion, wearing sunglasses, wearing a hat to protect your head and face and avoiding some of the prime time hours of intense sun during the late morning through mid-afternoon hours. Remember that shade is your friend when the heat of the summer beach day gets too oppressive.

2. Rip tides can be sneaky and potentially dangerous. Don’t just rely on the lifeguard to post warnings. Be aware of the sometimes subtle signs of rips currents. Rip currents can pull you off your feet before you even know what hit you. Stay alert to changes in wave patterns, discolorations in the water and waves that break in strange ways as they come in to shore. Learn how to react to an unexpected rip current before you find yourself in a compromising situation.

3. Jellyfish have limited defense mechanisms in their wheelhouse. They use the one most readily at their disposal any time they encounter an obstacle. A jellyfish sting can be mildly painful for most people or excruciating for others. Most stings can be treated with pain relievers or ice. If you’re one of the many unlucky victims of a jellyfish sting and your reactions are more severe than simple discomfort or mild pain, seek medical help immediately. At its extreme, a jellyfish sting has the potential to be deadly.

4. Shark attacks may not be everyday events at the beach, but they are always frightening and potentially devastating. You will not be forewarned of an impending attack so it’s up to you to heed lifeguard warnings of shark sightings in the area and to remain aware of your environment in the water. If you do encounter a shark, your best defense is to try to smack the creature in the snout or around the eyes to deflect his attack.

5. Stingrays, much like jellyfish, can inflict a painful sting. While they won’t pursue you if they encounter you in the water, they will defend themselves should you step on them with the only weapon at their disposal. You should consult a medical professional if you are stung, as stingray stings are potentially life threatening.

6. Even good swimmers run the risk of drowning if they encounter unexpected conditions. Don’t play around irresponsibly in the water and never enter the water if you’ve been drinking. Alcohol can cloud your judgement and make you take life-threatening risks you would not normally consider. Plus, it can slow your reaction time if danger occurs. Oceans and other bodies of water should always be treated with the respect for their power that they deserve.

7. Litter and debris aren’t just issues on land anymore. Human trash is dangerous to sea creatures and humans alike. It’s an issue that seems to be getting worse instead of better. You can get tangled in fishing line, caught up in floating plastic bags or cut and impaled on syringes and broken glass. Always go to the beach with others. You may need their assistance if you get injured.

8. Thunder and lightning are not just threats on the golf course. Being out on the beach leaves you exposed to the elements. If you hear thunder in the distance or spot a flash of lightening, don’t take a chance. Head for shelter. Your beach umbrella or a nearby tree do not qualify as good sources of protection. Go inside a building or another secure area.

Beach vacations can be loads of fun and are a great break from the monotony of everyday life. Just make sure you plan to take care of yourself so you can return again in the future for more fun in the sun.

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