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Sharp Health News

4 tips for a fun and safe beach day

June 9, 2021

Two young men carrying a cooler and walking on the beach

As COVID-19 cases decrease and the state prepares to fully open on June 15, many people are looking forward to the return of fun beach days with friends and family. Before heading out to San Diego’s beautiful beaches, there are some important safety tips to keep in mind.

Dr. Gregory Apel, medical director of the emergency department at Sharp Coronado Hospital, shares 4 tips for a safe and fun beach day.

1. Watch for warning flags
If you plan to swim in the ocean, it’s important to monitor the warning flags and know what they mean.

“Different beaches (and states) have different colored flags and assigned meanings, so be sure to ask the lifeguard if you’re not sure what the flags signify,” says Dr. Apel.

Two important flags to know are yellow and red. Yellow flags signal there is a medium hazard; weak swimmers are discouraged from entering the water. Red flags mean there is a high hazard and rough conditions. All swimmers are discouraged from entering the water when a red flag is raised.

2. Know how to swim
“Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a calm pool or lake. Be prepared to deal with strong surf before running in,” says Dr. Apel.

If you’re at the beach with a child or adult who can’t swim, make sure they have a well-fitted lifejacket. If you’re going boating, every passenger should wear a properly sized lifejacket at all times. Always proceed with caution and bring a buddy.

3. Watch your skin
When spending time in the sun, taking care of your skin is key.

“Just 1 blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma later in life,” says Dr. Apel. “Racking up more than 5 sunburns at any age also doubles the risk of melanoma.”

Keep the sunburn at bay by slathering on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Make sure you have a source of shade — think hats, umbrellas, tents — readily available, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 10 am to 4 pm. Remember, eyes can get sun damage too, so don’t forget some sunglasses. Reapply sunscreen if you spend more than a few minutes in the water.

4. Watch out for stingrays
While this time of year means sunnier days and warmer weather, it can also lead to an increase in stingray-related injuries.

“Stingrays typically won’t sting unless they feel threatened, so the best way to avoid a sting is to do the famous ‘stingray shuffle,’” says Dr. Apel. “Shuffle or drag your feet along the ocean floor to scare the stingray away instead of surprising it.”

If you are stung, treat it by flushing the wound with fresh water and soaking it in hot water (as hot as can be tolerated without causing burns). The heat will offer immediate pain relief. Although it is rare for a stingray to leave part of its barb behind, if this happens, be sure to head to the emergency room. Do not attempt to remove it.

If you need to visit the emergency room this summer, know that Sharp Coronado is taking all necessary precautions to keep the community healthy and safe. For emergencies that are not life- or limb-threatening, you can save a spot at sharp.com/coronadoER.

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