If you’re like most moms right about now, you’re absolutely itching to get those kids outside. And since summer is here and the weather is oh so fine, the beach is probably one of your favorite destinations. I’m right there with you.
If you’re an expert beach broad, however, you know that a fun beach outing can quickly turn bad. Just one runaway wave or angry sea creature can turn your amazing day in the sun into a living hell.
While we’ve all had a bad beach day that ends with our parts feeling a bit too sun-roasted, serious injuries are much more common than we think. On that note, here are 7 tips to help keep you and your fellow beach bums safe:
1. Learn what warning flags mean, and then look out for them. Different beaches have different colored flags with specific assigned meanings. It’s a good idea to ask the lifeguard if you’re not sure what the flags signify. Use caution. And remember: Not all beaches are made for swimming, so know what’s what before you set foot on the sand.
2. Stay updated on the weather forecast. Lightning + large bodies of water = trouble. Check the weather report before heading to the beach. Save the beach for another day if there’s lightning in the forecast. If you’re already there, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder boom before heading back out to the sand.
3. Make sure everyone in your crew knows how to swim. Swimming skills do matter: Giving a one-year-old child four formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. Our rule is simple: If you can’t at least do the doggie paddle, stay away from the water. And if you’re at the beach with a child or adult who can’t swim, make sure they wear a life jacket.
4. Pick a swimming spot that’s close to a lifeguard. Lifeguards are there for a reason. They have the ability to see, hear, and sense things that the average beachgoer does not. Take note of where they’re stationed on the beach and stay relatively close to them when swimming. Most drownings occur at unguarded sites, so being close to a lifeguard greatly reduces your chance of that happening.
5. Stay aware of rip currents. When waves don’t break evenly along the shore, there can be a circulation in the water that produces a rip current. These notorious currents are the biggest threat to beachgoers, capable of dragging even the strongest swimmer far from the shore. If you do get pulled out, stay calm. You need to save your energy. You can do this by letting the current carry you for a while. Once you’ve calmed down, start swimming horizontal to the shore until you’ve removed yourself from the current. Then return to the shore by swimming diagonally.
6. Know what it usually looks like when a swimmer is in trouble. Here’s a fact that all beachgoers need to digest: Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional deaths in the world. While we assume that swimmers in distress will be frantically waving their hands and yelling for dear life, this isn’t always the case. In fact, drowning is often eerily quiet. Keep an eye out for people who have their heads low in the water or tilted back with their mouth open, who have their eyes closed, or who are trying to swim with little to no success.
7. Respect the waves before they force you to. Swimmers who dismiss the power of the ocean’s waves do so at their own risk. They are so much more powerful than non-beach bums realize. Injuries resulting from strong waves can include sprains, broken collarbones, and dislocated shoulders. On the more serious side, swimmers can experience blunt organ trauma and paralysis through severe spinal injuries. Oh, and look out for shore breaks. These are those violent waves that break directly on shore, as opposed to gently rolling in from further offshore. These downright frightening waves can cause serious neck and spinal injuries.
We are lucky to have beaches to run to when all other summer activities seem a bit blah. The beach is a treasure trove of fun, relaxation, and adventure, all waiting for you and your favorite folks. And if you follow the 7 tips described above, you’ll be sure to keep you and them safe and sound until sweater weather returns.