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Healthy Living Blog

Beach Safety

August 24, 2020 | Katie Howell, APRN, CNP

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We are fortunate to be close to a great source of summer fun—Lake Erie. Since there are still a few warm weeks left of summer, you may be looking to head to the lake before temperatures cool down and the kids head back to school. Before you head out, make sure you are prepared to enjoy the beach safely.

Come Prepared

Before you leave, make sure you check these items off your list.

  • Proper attire. Wear light colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible to prevent sun damage and make sure you have Coast Guard approved life jackets for all children in your family and anyone who may not be a strong swimmer.
  • Bring the sunscreen. August sun can be strong especially during peak hours. Be sure to pack broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Reapply every two hours and always after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.
  • Pack enough food and water. If you are planning on spending a few hours at the beach, you want to make sure you have food and water to stay hydrated. If it’s hot and you’re doing a lot of physical activity, you will expend energy more quickly and that can lead to dehydration.
  • Bring your phone. Make sure your phone is charged and handy. If something goes wrong, you want to have it at the ready so you can call for help, if needed.
  • Know what to do in an emergency. You should be able to recognize the signs of someone who is in trouble in the water so that you know how to react in an emergency. It’s also a good idea for a few people in your family to know CPR so that it can be administered while waiting for EMS.

Know your abilities

One of the most important things in any type of swimming situation is knowing your own limitations and the limitations of those in your group. These can include your level of physical fitness, any medical conditions, and your swimming ability.

It’s important to know these five basic skills and how to use them in every type of water environment.

  • Enter water that’s over your head and return to the surface
  • Float or tread water for at least one minute
  • Flip over and turn around in the water
  • Swim at least 25 yards
  • Exit the water

Watch for hazards

There are many hazards at Lake Erie beaches that can interfere with your swimming and increase your risk of injury.

  • Pay attention to posted warnings. This can include water quality information to prevent you from getting sick, warnings about high waves and/or rip currents, and postings about whether or not there is a lifeguard on duty.
  • Be aware of thunder and lightning. If a storm comes, leave the water immediately and find shelter indoors and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. If you are outside, avoid open areas, tall, isolated trees, and metal objects.
  • Know the shoreline. Every beach is different. Familiarize yourself with the place you are swimming and avoid things like drop-offs and rip currents.
  • Be aware of fast-moving currents, waves, and rapids. In shallow water they can knock you down and make it difficult to get back up. Lake Erie is prone to high waves and strong currents and it’s important to never swim on rough days. Check for beach advisories before heading out.
  • Watch for underwater hazards. Rocks and debris, vegetation and fish, or drop-offs that change the water depth unexpectedly can be swimming hazards.
  • Be mindful of other people’s activities. At beaches, there are large groups of people sharing the water and it can be easy to run into someone else and get injured.
  • Prepare for unexpected changes. Temperatures can drop quickly and waves can appear even on a calm day.

Slow the spread

While the risk of contracting COVID-19 while visiting a beach is low, there is still a chance if precautions are not taken.

  • Observe physical distancing guidelines. You should maintain six feet of distance or more between yourself and others who live outside your household.
  • Bring a mask. It’s good to have one on hand if there are concessions, rentals, or other crowded areas where you may be interacting with other people. Make sure you store it in a dry place as wet masks can make it difficult to breathe.
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you or someone in your family isn’t feeling well, it’s best to reschedule your beach day for another time.

About Katie Howell

Katie Howell, APRN, CNP is a Nurse Practitioner with Fisher-Titus Convenient Care in Norwalk. Fisher-Titus Convenient Care treats a variety of acute non-emergency illnesses and minor injuries with walk-in appointments with evening and weekend hours. For more information, visit fishertitus.org/convenient-care.