Outdoor water safety is crucial at this time of year, as we all head to the beach over the summer months. Therefore it is worth visiting beaches which have lifeguards on duty, as well as safety signs, and generally being aware of the dangers.
Red and yellow flags indicate the safe swimming zones where lifeguards will be patrolling, and where speedboats and jet skis are not allowed (these areas are indicated with black and white chequered flags). Stay within these zones and watch out for any sudden changes in depth if you’re not confident in the water. Never enter the water where there is a red flag. If you see someone struggling, always inform a lifeguard or coastguard immediately, and never attempt a rescue yourself.
Tides and water currents
Look out for signs which indicate strong ‘rip’ currents which run out to sea, and can be found in larger surf or around piers. You can spot these if the water is brown (as sand is stirred up), foam is on the surface, debris is floating further out or there are ripples surrounded by calmer water. There is a danger that these can sweep swimmers out of their depth, but if this happens the best action is to swim across the current (parallel to the shore) or float and wait for assistance. Be aware of getting cut off by tides along the shore and avoid the sea when you see ‘dumping waves’, which break with force in shallow water, usually occurring at low tide.
Piers and rocky areas
Tides and currents are often strongest here, which can be difficult to manage even for confident swimmers. You should not jump or dive into the water from these areas, as the depth can be deceptive with changing tides or may have hidden rocks beneath the surface.
Weaver fish and jellyfish
A common injury on some beaches is caused by weaver fish, which live under the surface of the sand at the water’s edge. Weaver fish have a protruding spine which, if stood on, can cause a nasty sting. As is also the case with a jellyfish sting, treatment is to pour vinegar onto the affected area to neutralise the poison.
Heat exhaustion and sunburn
Excessive sweating, causing a loss of salt and water from the body, can gradually lead to heat exhaustion with symptomatic headaches, dizziness and muscle cramps. In this case it is important to cool down, but not get too cold, and drink a litre of water with an added teaspoon of salt. In treating sunburn, affected areas should be covered, preferably with clean, damp cloths.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.