When the weather’s hot and sticky, a cool plunge in the Atlantic Ocean is just what the doctor ordered. But since the doctor probably won’t be accompanying you to the beach, we offer five tips to make your visit as safe and healthy as possible. Seek sun protection. The Sun Safety Alliance recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which means offering protection against both UVB and UVA rays) with an SPF rating of at least 15. And don’t forget: excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays also can damage your eyes. To be safe, wear sunglasses and a hat, and set up a beach umbrella to provide shade. Stay hydrated. Bring a cooler stocked with bottled water and other drinks to fend off dehydration and heat illness. The idea is to replace the water your body is losing through sweat. Remember that caffeinated and alcoholic drinks actually inhibit cooling and cause dehydration.
Avoid rip currents. These are currents of water flowing away from the shore that can pull you out to sea. It’s estimated that more than 100 people die each year on our nation’s beaches due to rip currents. Check your lifeguard’s chalkboard when entering the beach to see if rip currents are present. And learn how to escape a rip current in case you find yourself caught in one. Beware of sea lice. At this time of year along the lower Atlantic coast of Florida, the larvae of the thimble jellyfish—also known as sea lice—may be floating in the water. They are nearly microscopic, but when trapped between your bathing suit and your skin, they can sting and produce an itchy red rash. Learn what to do in case sea lice sting you. Respect nature. Throw your trash in the garbage cans provided. Don’t sprinkle your leftover food around for the seagulls; it can encourage aggressive behavior and leave a mess for the next beach-goer. And remember: this is sea turtle nesting season. Be respectful of the baby sea turtles getting ready to hatch beneath the sand. Steer clear of their covered nests, which are marked by wooden stakes.