Safety tips for beach users

Its summer time and South Africans will be flocking down to the beaches in their thousands over the next few weeks.

Big waves at Main Beach, Jeffreys Bay
Big waves at Main Beach, Jeffreys Bay

Here are some beach safety tips to ensure a trouble free December holiday.

Children should have responsible adult supervision at all times. Statistics released by the Medical Research Council show the greatest number of drowning accidents occur amongst children aged between 9 and 14.

Always have someone responsible watching over your children while they are swimming.

Children should never be left alone near any water.

When planning a trip to the beach choose a beach that has lifeguards on duty and swim between their flags. If you do this you don’t need to worry about rip-currents, the lifeguards will do that, and if you get into difficulty they will come and help you.

Contrary to popular belief children do not thrash around and shout for help when they are drowning. They may be able to wave and shout for help when in distress, but drowning has been proven to be silent event.

A person who is trying to tread water, with their head tilted back is a person in desperate need of help. They are quite possibly drowning.

If you go to a beach this holiday, remember to never ever turn your back on the sea. This is most important for anglers on rocks, and something that should be reinforced in children on holiday in an unfamiliar place.

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When at the sea watch out for rip-currents. Rip currents are the greatest cause of drowning accidents along our coast.

A rip current looks like rivers of water flowing fast out to sea against the incoming waves. If you are caught in a rip-current you’ll be swept out to sea faster than you’re able to swim towards the shore.

Don’t panic or try to swim against the current. As tough as this sounds, let the current take you out to sea. Raise one arm in the air and wave to alert people on the shore that you’re in trouble.

The rip-current’s force dissipates the further out to sea it gets. At the first chance you get, swim parallel to the beach until you’re free of the rip, then use the incoming waves to aid your progress to get back to shore.

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If you are stung by a Bluebottle remove any tentacles that are stuck to the skin with tweezers or a gloved hand. Wash the skin with sea water and as soon as possible immerse the site of the sting in tolerably hot water.

If hot water is not available apply ice packs but avoid direct contact with the skin by wrapping the ice pack in a towel. Do not apply vinegar or rub sand on the area. See a doctor who may provide further treatment if it is needed.

The risk of shark attack is minimal but always be on the lookout. Should you see birds diving for food and dolphins feeding, there is a higher risk of predators being close by. Exit the water and go swimming once things have calmed down.

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