Australians love visiting the beach but it can be a very dangerous place – here we list the most common hazards and how to avoid them…
1. Water troubles
By far the biggest threat at the beach is the water itself. Rips account for 89% of beach rescues and at least 40% of drowning deaths. If you’re not sure how to identify a rip or current, read the signs posted by lifesavers – these will usually have some indication of danger zones. Always swim between the flags – not only are they positioned at the safest place on the beach, but if you get into trouble you’ll be seen and helped quickly.
If you become stuck in a rip (you will be moving further away from shore and won’t be able to swim back closer in), the most important thing to do is not to panic. Don’t try and swim directly against it; strong swimmers should firstly attempt to swim parallel to the beach across to breaking waves, which will help you back into shore, but as soon as you feel you are unable to reach the beach raise your arm and call for assistance.
2. Not all sunshine and daisies
With temperatures peaking in the high 30s, this summer has already been a scorcher. Don’t put yourself in harms way; remember to slip, slop, slap to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Children are particularly vulnerable as studies have shown skin damage occurring within the first 20 years of life can have the most effect on skin cancer dangers later in life. And a nasty sunburn is never pleasant! Use aloe vera to help soothe irritated skin if you do get burnt this summer.
Also remember to stay hydrated, as heat stroke can cause you to become ill later in the day.
3. Watch your back at the beach
Each year a number of spinal injuries occur around the beach – being dumped headfirst by a wave, diving headfirst into water, jumping off rocks and hitting submerged objects can all cause spinal injury. Always check the depth of the water and search for any hidden hazards before getting in. Treat any sudden neck soreness or pain as a potential spinal injury.
If you suspect you or someone you are with has a spinal injury, ensure the injured person does not move and seek help immediately. If in water, check breathing first and stabilise their head and neck before seeking assistance.
4. Stinger danger
While in south east Queensland we only really have to fear the pain of a bluebottle sting, up north there are many more dangers from tropical (often lethal) species of jellyfish. Only swim inside stinger nets in northern Queensland and always check with local lifesavers for any changes to conditions.
If you’re stung by a bluebottle jellyfish, don’t rub at the skin as the poison will release more – wash off without touching and apply ice; within an hour the pain should subside.
5. Staying shark safe
While the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is extremely low, fear of sharks is still a strong and common fear among the populace. With their rows of teeth and menacing stare, it’s really no surprise that the triangular fin slicing through waves strikes such terror into our hearts, but the most important thing to do when a shark is spotted is to stay calm. Trying to “scare it off” by thrashing around could actually attract a shark’s attention, so stay calm and leave the water as quickly and quietly as possible.
Swimming between the flags is another safety measure, as appearing in a group (thus a bigger and possibly more dangerous target) is a deterrent for attack – despite the common myth that swimming at dawn and dusk places you at more risk of attack due to sharks being more active, actually the danger is in being a lone swimmer; a small, easy target with no one to assist after a bite.
Additionally, having lifeguards watching over the water means early identification of the threat is more likely.
Keep these things in mind this summer to make your beach visits as safe as they can be! Do you have any stories about dangers you’ve faced at the beach? Let us know!