The long days of summer are finally here. With school behind them, youngsters and adults are now stretching their weary legs and venturing out into the great outdoors for a little rest and relaxation. But as we burst out of our shell and start enjoying all the amenities of living along the Crystal Coast, remember that safety comes first. While living on the coast definitely makes summer more exciting, it can also make it more dangerous for those who aren’t aware of the dangers lurking beneath the façade of a warm summer’s day.
Wear your sunscreen. Can we say this enough to our children and friends? Probably not. Despite huge national campaigns lamenting the dangers of too much sun, getting a tan continues to be at the top of everyone’s summer to do list. Yes, get your tan on – but do so in a safe, gradual manner.
Skin cancer continues to be the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 65-90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light – which is exactly what we find on the beach and in tanning beds across the country. Following a few safety rules, like avoiding peak hours of 10am-4pm and wearing a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses can definitely add to the safety of sunbathing.
Be cool in the pool (and the ocean). The stark reality is that despite myriad safety tools, drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children ages 1-4 with three children dying every day in the country as a result of drowning. In a water emergency, every second counts, with many happening silently and quickly before anyone even noticing.
If someone is missing, the American Red Cross recommends that you check the water first, whether you’re poolside or sitting on the beach. “Throw, don’t go” is the mantra. Having a life preserver, or alerting nearby lifeguards who do, is always preferable to heading into the water yourself to make a rescue. There have been numerous reported cases of rescuers themselves getting caught in rip currents and pulled away from shore.
An active drowning victim may be vertical in the water but unable to move or tread water. They may attempt to press down with their arms at their sides in an attempt to keep their head above the water line. Never assume that a swimmer in distress is joking or playing around, the Red Cross warns.
The tried and true safety rules continue to be the same:
• Make sure your children knows how to swim and set limits for them.
• Have children wear a life jacket – but never rely on it to babysit.
• Never leave children alone in or near the water.
• Don’t dive into shallow water.
• If you can’t swim, don’t let your feet leave the ground. Drop offs are common along the coastline.
• Stay alert for changes in the weather and ocean.
• Watch for rip currents
• Be prepared, learn CPR.
An estimated 80 percent of beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, according to the US Lifesaving Association. These strong, narrow currents moving away from shore, are hazardous not only for new swimmers, but for strong, experienced swimmers as well. More than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents say recent National Weather Service statistics.
Currents are most unpredictable and prone to rip currents around rock jetties, piers and docks. Despite a strong swim stroke, those caught in a rip current find it hard to make it back to beach. The NWS recommends that if caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until out of the current, then head to shore.
Now ‘ear’ this. A recent report from the CDC found that swimmer’s ear results in some 2.4 million doctor visits annually in the US, with each costing an average of $200.
“Most people think of swimmer’s ear as a mild condition that quickly goes away, but this common infection is responsible for millions of illnesses and substantial medical costs each year,” Michael Beach, associate director for healthy water said in a press release.
Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition caused by water sitting too long in the ear canal, thus allowing germs to multiply. Humidity and warm temperatures have a tendency to increase the risk and making the South the region with the highest rates of occurrence. According to the report, 44 percent of all reported cases occur June-August. Children ages 5-14 had the highest rate of doctor’s visits.
“By taking simple steps before and after swimming or coming in contact with water, people can greatly reduce their risk of this painful infection,” Beach said.
• Dry your ears after swimming or showering
• If around water, attempt to keep your ears dry.
• Avoid inserting swabs or other foreign objects into the ear canal. This can irritate the skin and make it more susceptible to infection.
• If swimmer’s ear is a common occurrence, ask your doctor about using alcohol-based drops after swimming.
Hazards below the surface. With miles of open coast line, Carteret County hosts more beachgoers and pool bathers, and with high beach traffic comes dangers that inland people aren’t accustomed to dealing with – wildlife.
The emergency department at Carteret General Hospital warns that stingrays have a sharp barb that can impale the skin and cause extreme pain. First treat the sting with water as hot as you can stand it to help relieve symptoms. If the pain is extreme or the barb is still in the skin, a medical consultation may be necessary.
Jellyfish stings bring a lot of pain as well. First treat with vinegar soaks for 15-30 minutes. NEVER use regular water as it will make it worse. Regular water causes a continued release of the toxin, while the acetic acid in vinegar makes it stop.
Even waders can be at risk of cuts from the razor-like edges of oyster shells. Oyster shells have a lot of bacteria and the shells are hard to see. Medical treatment is needed to evaluate shell remains and to treat infection. Prevention is always best, warn the experts.
Protect your feet when going into the water and be aware if you are entering oyster habitats. Tetanus shots should be evaluated with all cuts to the skin, including oyster cuts.
When it comes to fun in the sun – there is plenty to go around here in Eastern North Carolina. But practicing safety first and being ever vigilant is the only way to be sure of an injury free holiday!