Whether it’s Corfu or Cornwall, Barbados or Blackpool, many people will spend some of their summer holiday this year on the beach.
To ensure your time on the beach is as relaxing as possible, there are a few things to remember so that you and your family stay as safe as possible.
n Keeping safe in the water
Taking a dip in the sea is a big part of spending time on the beach. One way to find out if the sea at a particular beach is clean and safe is to see if it has been awarded Blue Flag status. The Blue Flag demonstrates that the beach in question has the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management. The scheme covers beaches in the UK and abroad. A full list can be found at blueflag.org.
In 2010, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) helped more than 18,500 people who got into difficulty in the water off UK beaches. This highlights the importance of making sure you enjoy the sea safely.
You should only swim at beaches where lifeguards are present and only enter the water between the red and yellow flags that indicate it is safe to swim. This will stop you being taken offshore by strong winds or currents.
Never swim alone, and if you do get into difficulties raise your hand and shout for help. If you do see someone struggling in the sea, don’t attempt a rescue yourself – tell a lifeguard or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
Make sure that children or adults who can’t swim wear buoyancy aids to keep them afloat. Supervise them at all times and stay within your depth so you can easily help them if needed.
n Dangerous animals
One of the biggest animal threats in the sea, both in the UK and abroad, comes from jellyfish. In the UK, jellyfish don’t tend to be dangerous but they can produce a painful and itchy sting.
One popular theory is that urinating on a jellyfish sting is the best way to kill the pain. However, the British Red Cross say that is misplaced, and that sea water or vinegar are actually the best things to put on a sting.
If someone has been stung by a jellyfish, do not rub the affected area as this will make the pain worse. Lightly spray the area with seawater and apply a cold compress if it’s available.
The best thing to do is to avoid swimming in water where jellyfish might be present altogether. You should also avoid jellyfish that have been washed up on the beach, as these can still give you a nasty sting.
If you are abroad and get stung by a more dangerous type of jellyfish, such as a Portuguese Man of War, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Many people fear going into the water because of shark attacks, but these kind of attacks are very rare. Listen to local advice and beware of any no swim warnings issued by lifeguards.
n Protection from the sun
One of the reasons many people choose to visit the beach is to enjoy the sun. However, it is important to take precautions and ensure you do not harm your skin through overexposure to the sun’s rays.
You should always ensure you wear adequate sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, which you should reapply regularly and particularly after swimming in the water. You should avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (normally midday-3pm) and move to the shade if you feel your skin burning.
Prolonged exposure can also damage skin in the long term and make it appear more aged and wrinkled.
An even more serious effect of sun damage is skin cancer. Research from Cancer Research UK has revealed a strong link between this and sunburn. Take the relevant precautions described above to reduce your risk.