Summertime beach days are the best, no matter what it is you like to do in the ocean: swimming, wading, kayaking, surfing or stand-up paddling. But we sometimes forget that such a friendly, happy place is also a wild place. We humans are out of our element in the ocean and we need to take the proper precautions to keep our family and ourselves safe while we're enjoying all of our seaside days.
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Contrary to popular belief, "the undertow" is sort of an old wives' tale—and, for that matter, so is a "rip tide." These phrases are most likely referring to rip currents, which are like?narrow, fast-moving?channels or belts?of water moving from the shore out towards the ocean. Rips are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers; especially when a particular swimmer is inexperienced or weak. However, some rips are poweful enough to sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea—but the way you react to a rip current is ultimately more significant than the rip itself.
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Although your instinct will tell you to swim against the current in order to get out of it, don't. It's self-defeating and you'll only expend your energy, decreasing your chances of getting out of it safely. Instead, don't panic. Swim out of the rip, parallel to the beach, instead of against it and then make your way to the shore.?
All that salt and sun can drain you, quick. Make sure you pack enough water and sustinance to last your outing.
It just comes with the territory; when you love being outside, you're sharing your space with all the other little (and big) creatures that live there. At the beach, we're visitors in their home and not only do we have to respect the ecosystem there, but we also have to be careful of the repercussions our visits can have on our own bodies.
Jellyfish: Jellyfish are typical summertime problems up and down the East Coast and in Southern Californian waters, most prevalent when they're carried ashore by winds or ocean currents. Most jellies that you'll encounter at the beach don't carry fatal poison in their tentacles; the deadliest are mostly found in Australia and Indo-Pacific waters. Still, come in contact with a whole jellyfish or even tiny piece of a jellyfish and that annoying sting can itch and burn for hours, if not a couple of days.
So what can you do to prevent them? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. Most importantly, try and watch where you're swimming, walking and wading. Keep an eye out for them and spot them before your hand, body or face plunges right into one. Otherwise, a few jellyfish sting protective lotions are available on the market.
And what can you do to treat jellyfish stings? It sounds counter-intuitive, but don't rinse them with freshwater—it will further aggravate the skin. Either rinse the affected area with saltwater or don't rinse it at all. You can use vinegar, though. If the sting or stings are particularly burning, take an over-the-counter pain medication. And if you aren't sure if you're having a severe allergic reaction or not, as a lifeguard or doctor right away.
Stingrays: Stingrays have flat bodies and they float along the bottom of the sea floor—often in shallow water, unfortunately for us.? Their "stings" are actually their barb—or tail—piercing or cutting our skin. The best way to remedy the problem once you've been "stung" is to immediately soak your feet in the hottest water you can handle.?
In order to prevent encounters with these guys altogether, shuffle your feet in the sand to scare them off before you have a chance to step on one.
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Know the Ocean Floor
Educate yourself on what kind of bottom lies beneath the waves—some beaches have purely sand bottoms, some have rock bottoms and others yet, sharp reef. Sharp animals like coral or sea urchins can live within the rocks and on the ocean floor so make sure you're aware of them.?
Protect Your Skin
Melanoma is very real. Protecting your skin from the sun not only wards off wrinkles and signs of aging, but preventing melanoma, the leading cause of death from skin disease takes the cake as a good reason to keep yourself covered when you're in and out of the water.?
More: 8 Best Sunscreens
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