What's the most wonderful time of the year? Christmas! Just kidding, in this case, it's actually beach season. This is the time of the year when everyone pulls out their swim trunks and tanks, brushes the sand off their totes, and double-checks the expiration date on their sunscreen. Beach season is officially open in many parts of the world and, of course, that makes everyone a little cheerier once the weekend rolls around.
What isn't so cheery, though, are the everyday, common hazards that many people face when going to the beach without even realizing it. Beachgoers never expect anything out of the ordinary which is exactly why it's better to be aware than to be blissfully unaware. When the experts tell us to be on the lookout for these things during our beach days, it's always in our best interest to pay attention.
The Biggie: Rip Currents
The biggest, and most concerning, hazard for beachgoers actually exists in the water. Rip currents are the cause of many drownings and swimmers being swept out to sea and the problem is, by the time it's realized, it's too late. According to Earth Networks, about 80% of all rescues have everything to do with rip currents.
They become even more of a challenge when swimmers panic which, of course, is the natural reaction - but it's also one that can get a swimmer into deeper water, literally. The key is to swim with the current because these currents don't span on indefinitely; once the tide no longer feels as though it's pulling the swimmer, they can safely swim out and around it, to shore or to wait for rescue.
Don't Ignore: No Lifeguard On Duty
If rip currents are a major threat then swimming with no lifeguard on duty only raises the stakes. Even if it's not a rip current that's the issue, any type of medical or life-threatening emergency can be addressed quickly and safely when lifeguards are present. By going into the water without them, it's the equivalent of getting into a speedboat without a life jacket: beachgoers might be okay but there's a big chance that something could happen.
Unexpected: Check The Weather Report (Multiple Times)
Believe it or not, lightning poses a fairly serious threat when it comes to beaches. Most people will simply exit the water if clouds start rolling in or they hear thunder but if you're hearing thunder, it means you're already too close to an impending storm. Many times, a lifeguard will blow the whistle if lightning is seen because their high lookouts give them a good vantage point. Considering lightning strikes can happen up to 12 miles outside of a storm, it's best to check the weather report multiple times before hitting your local waves.
Additionally, the wind can be a major factor when it comes to swimming. A sudden uptick of wind can lead to waves that continually grow in size (as anyone who has seen the ocean prior to a storm can attest to) and a storm doesn't even need to be in the works in order to cause chaos at the shoreline.
Big Ouch: Forgetting Sunscreen Or No Reapplying
The sun is definitely a hazard and it's especially bad for anyone not wearing sunscreen. These days, the sun is even more of a threat than it used to be and while there's plenty of climate change-related facts to back this up, one need only get sunburnt after 15 minutes in the sun to be living proof of that. Sunscreen is necessary for everyone, and reapplication after the suggested time is also necessary - don't trust waterproof or sweat-proof claims.
Often Goes Unseen: Pollution And Litter
When people are running around on the beach, it's not often that anyone is looking down at their feet to see where they're stepping. Nearly every beach has a 'no littering' policy but, unfortunately, that doesn't stop people from doing it anyway.
Some of this trash and pollution could be potentially hazardous if a person happens to step on it, whether on land or in the water. While beach glass is a fun thing to find and collect, it takes time to get that way - and no one wants a painful surprise with glass that hasn't yet been rock-polished.
By wildlife, experts mean unseen dangers in the water and, potentially, on land. While a crab might go unseen until it pinches someone's toe, a jellyfish can cause a lot more than a pinch and won't let go immediately. If beachgoers happen to be swimming in an area where jellyfish have been seen, it's best to keep an eye out, stay close to the shore, and stay within marked boundaries, if any.