A trip to the beach is always a fun idea, no matter what your age or the weather. However, it is always worth being a little bit prepared in terms of safety, especially when it comes to our kids.
Here are my top 10 beach safety tips to help everyone stay safe on the beach.
According to the RNLI you are 500 times less likely to drown on a lifeguarded beach. Check here to see which beaches are lifeguarded, and at what times, in Cornwall. Look at the lifeguard information on the beach and always stay between the right coloured flags (red and yellow flags for swimmers). Please don't go into the water if there is a red flag showing.
Our local St Ives beaches get really busy in the Summer. Porthmeor especially can look like windbreak city. Imagine being a small child playing there - you can easily step away from your family, look up and feel lost. We always establish a "lost point" as soon as we get down onto the beach. This is a clearly marked place our kids know they can go to and wait. On Porthmeor we always say the St Ives Surf School. It is easy to see and the people that run it are really kind and helpful. We haven't had to use it yet though...
Having lived in Australia (a long time ago), their campaign to slip, slap, slop has always stuck in my head. Slip on a rash vest, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen. The sun is really quite harsh down here in Cornwall. Maybe it is something to do with the St Ives light? I've burnt myself in March sitting out of the wind on the harbour beach. I'm very careful with my blonde kids to always have them covered with sunscreen and rash vests. The hats are a little less effective.
No, I'm not talking about Rattler or Doombar. I mean water or squash. Little kids can quickly become dehydrated on the beach when playing out in the sun for long periods of time. It does sound like something you would recommend in the Med or Tropics. However, the sun and wind here can really dehydrate you without you realising it. Your kids (and grownups) will thank you for that bottle of water!
Inflatables are a bit of a bug bear with me. They are great in the right water - mainly swimming pools! And maybe the very calm waters of the Med. PLEASE don't use them in our Cornish seas. The combination of tides, rough waves, offshore winds and rips just send shudders down my spine. Inflatables just aren't very safe here. If your children want something to play with in the sea, give them a body board.
It is incredibly tempting for our kids to play in the waves on the shore. Usually this is fine, but at high tides on beaches like Porthmeor this can be pretty dangerous. There is a big shore break and the waves are powerful with a strong under tow. Little kids can be swept of their feet very easily so please keep close and watch them at all times.
Make sure you know whether the tide is coming in or out. There are lots of great places round the coast to explore at low tide. However, you can get cut off at high tide. By understanding what the tide is doing and where it comes up to when high you will stay safe. Getting cut off by the tide contributes to a significant number of RNLI rescues every year!
If you are planning on spending any length of time in the sea, always wear a wetsuit. Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and our average sea temperature is only 12°C. Cold water can seriously affect your breathing and movement and can cause you getting into difficulties.
You can buy wetsuits relatively cheaply these days, or you can hire them from the local surf club. I know they aren't the easiest things to get in and out of, but your enjoyment of playing in the sea will override the unpleasant twang of neoprene.
It is rare to be stung by anything in the sea in the UK. However, we do have quite a few critters around Cornwall that can give you a nasty sting.
Weever fish are small, sandy-coloured fish that usually lie buried in the sand on the seabed. They have poisonous spines on their back and gills that can sting you, usually on your feet or hands.
If you have trodden on a weever fish, put your foot into very hot water for 30 - 90 mins. Pull out any spines you can see with tweezers. Take paracetamol.
Jellyfish seem to be getting more prevalent in the UK in the Summer months. Around Cornwall we get Moon, Compass, Blue, Lion's Mane and Barrell Jellyfish. Their tentacles will give you a mild and uncomfortable sting.
If you have been stung by a jellyfish, remove any remaining tentacles using tweezers or a stick (or gloves). Apply heat or immerse the area affected in hot water. Vinegar only works on box jellyfish stings, which thankfully we don't have in the UK. Please ignore the advice to urinate on the affected area. The heat may help a tiny bit but hot water is much better! Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with any pain and swelling.
Please don't pick up jellyfish on the beach - even if you think they are dead. They can still sting you.
Sea urchins are small, round sea creatures with a bony shell covered in spines. They're usually found in the shallows, on rocks and in seaweed. Sea urchin spines are hard, sharp and can cause puncture wounds. Between the spines are small organs, containing a poison that's released as a defence mechanism.
If you have trodden on a sea urchin, put your foot into very hot water for 30 - 90 mins. Pull out any spines you can see with tweezers. Take paracetamol for the pain.
A Portuguese man-of-war is a large, poisonous jellyfish-like creature (although it's not actually a jellyfish) with a large purple-blue, gas-filled bladder and tentacles that hang below the water. The sting can be painful, but rarely causes death.
If you have been stung by a Portuguese Man Of War, clear away any tentacles using tweezers, a stick or gloves. Rinse the area with sea water (not fresh water). Soak the affected area in hot water which will ease the pain. The pain should only last 15 - 20 minutes.
With all of the above stings, please seek help from the lifeguards if possible. If you cannot remove the spines of weever fish or sea urchins properly you will need to go to the local walk in medical centre. If you start to feel unwell, have difficulty breathing or have a severe allergic reaction, please call 999!
Rips are strong currents running out to sea. These can quickly take you from the shallows to right out of your depth. In the UK, the majority of RNLI Lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. They are a major cause of accidental drowning on beaches all across the world.
Rips can be tricky to spot so it is always worth asking the lifeguard if there are any about.
If you do find yourself caught in a rip:
- Never swim against it, it is stronger than you are, even if you are an Olympic swimmer!
- If you are not out of your depth, stand up and wade.
- Stay with your board if you have one.
- If you are too deep, swim PARALLEL to the shore until you are free from the rip. Then swim back to shore.
- Raise your hand and shout for help.
None of this information is meant to dampen your enjoyment of being by the sea. Yes, there are dangers out there but the vast majority of people visit the beach each year incident free!
If you have any beach safety tips you would like to share with us please do add your comments below x
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