Know how you would react if you encounter marine life, rip currents or other hazards on the beach.
If you're a frequent beachgoer, you probably have a beach bag stocked with supplies for a long, happy day on the ocean — sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, towels, bottled water.
While those items are handy, you need to think about other ways to prepare for possible hazards waiting for you on or off the shore.
Review these "what if's" to see if you know how to react to these potentially dangerous situations.
What if you …
- Get caught in a rip current? Every year in the United States, more than 100 drownings occur due to rip currents, according to the National Weather Service. It's important to stay calm and conserve your energy if you get swept up in one. Don't fight it — swim in a direction along the shore until you are out of it and can head back to the shore. If you cannot swim out of it, float or tread water. Draw attention to yourself and yell for help.
- Develop a bad sunburn? Even with precautions, you still can get a severe sunburn if you spend a lot of time outside. Stay out of the sun until you have healed fully. Use cool-water compresses on affected areas. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or apply corticosteroids if necessary. If an infection develops, you may need a prescription for antibiotics.
- Encounter hazardous marine life? Treatment depends on the type of animal that stung or bit you, the Poison Information Center says. For stingrays and other vertebrates, soak the area in hot, soapy water for up to 90 minutes to inactivate the venom. Do not use ice. You may need to go to the hospital to remove an animal's barb or to treat severe symptoms. You may also need a tetanus shot. For jellyfish, man-of-war and other invertebrates, rinse with sea water, vinegar or alcohol and do not rub. Remove leftover tentacles with shaving cream, talc or flour.
- Hear thunder? It's unsafe to be outside in a thunderstorm. When you start hearing thunder, get yourself inside a closed building or your car. Open-sided picnic structures are not safe, the National Weather Service advises. Wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before you return to the beach.
Of course, nothing beats prevention. Make sure you know how to swim if you're in the water, and keep a close eye on children at all times. The water quality at most Florida beaches is usually good, but the Florida Department of Health makes it easy for you to check out water quality before you head to the beach.
If you run into an emergency, you can rely on our Emergency Department at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. We strive to see you as quickly as possible, and we post our average wait times on our web site so you can see how we're doing. Do not hesitate to call 911 in a serious situation.