When summer is in full swing beachgoers should be more aware about beach safety. In fact, beach goers should prepare themselves for a variety of dangers such as rip currents, the strength of the sun's rays, sea life and water quality, says Glenn Hebel, MD, medical director of Newport Hospital's Emergency Department.
"Spending time at the beach is one of the favorite pastimes of Rhode Islanders," says Hebel. "But understanding the dangers and knowing how best to avoid them will allow you and your family to focus on what is most important at the beach - having fun."
With 384 miles of tidal shoreline, Rhode Island provides a multitude of opportunities to enjoy time at the shore. And while many feel safe swimming in shallow waters, even those can prove deadly if proper precautions are not taken.
"Before you head to the beach, do some research," Hebel says. "Make sure that you are going to a beach with lifeguards on duty and be aware of the hours they are there. And take what they say seriously. You should always follow their instructions or warnings. Swimming at open ocean beaches means you run the risk of getting caught in rip currents, which can drag swimmers away from the shore at fast speeds."
What can swimmers do if caught by a riptide? Remain calm and do not swim against it. Instead, swim parallel to the shore in order to free yourself from the current.
Sun safety is just as important as water safety at the beach. While the air may be cooler at the shoreline, the sun is burning just as strong onto your skin. Hebel recommends wearing sunblock of at least 30 SPF and applying every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating. He notes that FDA changes mean that sunscreens must now be labeled as water resistant, instead of water proof or sweat proof since those terms were misleading. And remember, infants six months of age and younger should be completely shaded and not in any direct-sunlight environments.
"All of these precautions are especially important since the ozone layer has thinned, causing the sun's rays to be much stronger than they were 10 or 20 years ago," Hebel says. "Every summer we treat many people in our emergency department who are experiencing the pain and itching caused by a severe sunburn."
Other beach safety tips include: