Diagram of a rip currentNow that Bill has passed (the storm, not health care reform), we should remind ourselves of the dangers of ocean swimming.  Just this weekend in Acadia National Park in Maine, onlookers watching the huge crashing waves were overwhelmed by them.  Three people were swept into the ocean, and, tragically, one of them died.  Many others were injured.

The ocean is the perfect spot to cool off from the heat of the summer. If you’re traveling in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, chances are you’ll encounter and explore some tempting beach or bay.  These fun distractions are a great way to spend a day as long as you exercise care.

Of course, drowning is the biggest danger… In Texas this year alone, 30 children swimming in the surf died from drowning in June-a record month for the state.

Ocean swimmers have to contend with heavy surf, rip currents, and marine pests (like jellyfish)This time of year, the dangers of ocean swimming are exacerbated by the arrival of hurricanes and tropical storms.   Do you know the international language of beach safety flags? They can be extremely helpful for you to understand surf conditions, especially if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language. The International Life Saving Federation helped create them, and has published background information and pictures here (scroll down for images). If you do get caught in a rip current, remember to swim parallel to shore until you’ve escaped the pull and then swim in to shore. The national weather service offers additional rip current safety tips on their website.  Be aware of lingering turbulence; after a hurricane or storm, the ocean needs time to settle back down. Don’t assume that the water is safe just because the storm has moved through the area.

And don’t leave your common sense on the beach house veranda. Experts agree that constant supervision is the best way to keep children safe while swimming, even for strong swimmers or in shallow water. For all swimmers, it’s important to know the depth of the water, fellow swimmers’ abilities, and that lifeguards are present. Avoid dangerous spots such as sharp reefs and sudden drop-offs. Plenty of adult supervision is key. Of course, grown-ups who have been drinking may have lost their adult judgment. Keep those beach parties under control to keep the lifeguards out of the water.  Make the most out of the rest of the summer: swim safely and enjoy yourself.


About The Author

Emily Moran is a guest contributor to Healthy Travel Blog. During the school year, she is a math teacher and curriculum coordinator at Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia. During vacation, she travels when she can, and lived and studied abroad in Paris, France while receiving her undergraduate degree. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College in Mathematics with a minor in French.

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