Operation Safe Summer: Beach Safety

A lifeguard station at Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island.

One of the greatest dangers of the Summer season can come at the place where we go to have the most fun: The Beach.

“The number one tip is always swim near a lifeguard,” said Mike Wagner of the Shore Beach Service on Hilton Head Island.

Mike Wagner said you should pick a spot near one of the 60 lifeguards who line the 12 miles of beach on Hilton Head. That way, you’ll always be informed about possible dangers. He said kids shouldn’t go deeper than their waist in the ocean and they even need to use caution in any tide pools that may form.

“I’ve seen a child fall over and kind of flail around and not be able to get back up very quickly,” Wagner said.

He said there are also concerns about sea life:

“The number one thing we deal with is jellyfish during the season,” said Wagner. “Those are more of a nuisance than a danger.”

They are a nuisance that affects about 35,000 people every year on Hilton Head. For the most part, those stings can be treated on the beach, but a run-in with another creature could send you to the hospital.

“We’re coming in to stingray season,” said Michael Payne, director of emergency services at Hilton Head Hospital. He said stingray venom can be painful.

“We always recommend the stingray shuffle when you’re at the beach,” said Payne. “You don’t walk in the water, you shuffle with your feet on the sand. Oftentimes that will kind of bump the stingray and it will swim along.”

Most people who go to the beach won’t be injured during a visit, but everyone is affected by the heat. Payne said most heat-related conditions are avoidable.

“People tend to think they’re drinking plenty of water. When you think you’ve drank plenty of water, drink half as much more,” Payne said.

That means if you drink eight glasses of water a day, you should drink at least 12 on a beach day. Pay close attention to kids: If they stop sweating, they need more water.

Payne also said you need to be concerned about sun exposure. He recommends SPF 50.

“There’s always those people who are going for that bronze tan, but that will come with time – even if you use 50 sunblock,” Payne said.

You are also advised to pay attention to the forecast before you head out to the beach to avoid storms and extreme heat.

“If you see that they’re predicting a high heat index for the next day, try to plan accordingly,” said Payne. “If you don’t need to be in the heat, don’t go in the heat.”

The Shore Beach Service is offering three separate Junior Lifeguard camps in June for children ages 9 to 14. They are from June 5-7; 12-14; and 26-29 respectively. Click here for more information.

For safety information on Tybee Island, click here.

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