Safety on the beach

written by Pearl Salkin |

What could be better than spending a beautiful spring day at the beach? Kids living at the coast or lakeside have perennially played hooky on a hot May day to enjoy the sand and the surf. Similarly, grandmas and grandpas in Miami and throughout the Sunshine State often find the call of the warm waves irresistible and head for their favorite spot of sandy turf. While some fresh sea air and a natural helping of vitamin D can be good for the body and spirit, it’s wise to be aware of the dangers that lurk in the deep and on dry land, too.

Lightning – The expression “a bolt out of the blue” never rings truer than when someone is struck by lightning that seems to come from a cloudless sky. The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a research and education division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed the notion that lightning can strike a person or object that is 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. Scientists say that the highest point on a plane – like a tree on a golf course or a person standing on a beach – is more likely to be struck during a thunderstorm than a short shrub or a person lying down and making a lower vertical profile. They also must admit that they don’t know everything about lightning’s behavior. Strikes are often unpredictable and random.

It would be prudent to pay attention to weather warnings far in advance of approaching storms. If the sky above is clear but storm clouds seem to be gathering in the distance, don’t wait to hear the first clap of thunder. It’s time to seek a safer place.

Jellyfish and sharks and sharp seashells, oh my!

A walk along the beach or a dip in the ocean or river can be an invigorating and refreshing experience on a hot summer day. Or it can be a dangerous encounter with some of nature’s not-so-nice offerings.

The ocean is full of wondrous creatures. Sharks and jellyfish are just two. But an encounter with either will not be pleasant and could possibly be life threatening.

Only in rare circumstances would a jellyfish sting be more than a little painful and irritating. When stung by one at a beach that has a lifeguard on duty, first aid is readily available. If there is no lifeguard or roaming beach patrol, a quick trip to the supermarket for some vinegar is the common way to treat a minor sting. But in rare circumstances, a sting can be life threatening, causing a person to experience sudden cardiac arrest. If no trained first responder is nearby, the victim should be given CPR until professional help is on the scene.

Shark attacks are always dangerous. The best way for swimmers and surfers to protect themselves is to avoid areas and situations known to attract sharks. Among the many tips offered by George H. Burgess, senior biologist in ichthyology (the study of fishes) at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida, and other experts in the field are these:

Don’t swim during popular shark feeding times – at dawn and dusk. Don’t go too far from shore or where there are sandbars or steep drop-offs. Don’t wear shiny jewelry that would give an impression that you are a fish with scales. Don’t go into the water if you see large groups of fish, seabirds or dolphins. Sharks devour them and you wouldn’t want to be dessert. Don’t swim or surf alone. Many a buddy has saved a buddy’s life.

Seashells are fascinating creations. But if you cut your foot on a broken one, that could result in a painful and bloody mess. In that case, seek some first aid. Lifeguards are trained and equipped to handle all sorts of mishaps. If no help is onsite and the injury is minor, use common sense. Try to keep the wound as clean as possible. If the gash is gushing, use pressure to stop the bleeding and seek immediate medical attention.


Pearl Salkin

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