What Dangers Lurk in Ocean Waters: Your Family’s Safety at the Beach this Summer

Miley Legal Group

Beach fun comes, unfortunately, with a unique set of risks;  we might be inclined to think only of sharks and sunburns when we consider the dangers of our nation’s beaches, but a slew of other perils may present themselves as well, from jellyfish to sinkholes.  Thankfully, there are a number of ways to remedy and avoid hazardous situations, if you prepare.  The Miley Legal Group has gathered a list of some of these dangers and things you can do to keep them from souring your summer-time fun.

-Rip Currents
Even strong ocean swimmers can become caught in these swift-moving channels of water and find themselves being dragged out to sea.  The greatest danger generally comes when swimmers panic and try to escape them by swimming against the currents, toward shore.  Instead, you should swim parallel to the shore, not toward it, to escape the channel.  If this is not possible because the current is too strong, tread water or float to conserve energy until the current weakens, then follow the same procedure.  Once you are free of its pull, swim diagonally toward shore, still moving away from the rip current’s channel.

Jellyfish can be beautiful to watch drift through the water, but they also carry a painful, even deadly, sting.  Be sure to steer clear of areas where you’ve seen washed up jellyfish, as this is usually an indication of many more in the waters, and don’t touch, even if they are on land – they may still be able to sting.  If you are stung, wash the area thoroughly with salt water or white vinegar, but not fresh water, as this can cause more stinger cells to activate.  And no, contrary to popular belief, urinating on the affected area has not shown to be an effective treatment.  Though most jellyfish are not deadly, stings from some species, including Box Jellyfish, require immediate medical attention.  Continue to flush the area with vinegar or salt water until help arrives.
**CAUTION! If the sting has been inflicted by certain other creatures, for example a Portuguese Man o’ War, vinegar can worsen the injury.

That’s right, holes make the list of beach dangers.  We’ve all seen that cartoonish image of a person buried in sand up to their neck, laughing along with the family.  However, the holes left from this and other kinds of digging (for example, when searching for shells or constructing sandcastles) can mean imminent danger for the next passerby.  Small children are particularly susceptible to falling in, and with even the slightest vibration from nearby footsteps, the holes can collapse, sometimes completely burying the victim.  In order to avoid such accidents, it’s important not to dig too deeply, usually no deeper than your knees, and always fill in holes before you leave the area.

Stingrays are generally skittish creatures, but, if threatened, will use their tail barb to inflict a nasty injury.  They are commonly found in shallow waters, buried just beneath the sand, and can therefore be hard to spot before accidentally treading on one.  However, shuffling your feet as you move through the water can greatly decrease your risk of being stung.  Even if you bump one, it will usually swim away, so long as it is not trapped under your feet.

Of course, we couldn’t write any article on ocean safety without mentioning sharks.  Encounters with these “man-eaters” can be gruesome, causing debilitating injuries or death.  However, despite being one of the most feared animals of the deep, shark attacks are extremely rare – your chances of being involved in one are roughly 1 in 11.5 million.  Compare that to about a 1 in a million chance of being struck by lightning.  Still, there are things you can do to decrease your risk even more, for example, avoiding bright colored swimwear and shiny jewelry.  You should also stay well away from smaller, bait fish, and keep out of the water if you have any fresh wounds, as these will attract predatory fish like sharks.

Any time you are going to be swimming in the ocean, especially if you have young ones with you, you should check to see that there is a life guard on duty, and watch for posted signs indicating water quality and potentially dangerous areas.  Keeping these precautions in mind, you can ensure that you and your friends and family will have a fun, and safe, vacation on the coast!