Common Beach Injuries – How to Prevent and Treat Them?

Leaving for a beach vacation is the most exciting time of the year, but having fun by the ocean, like any other outdoor activity has some hazards too. The most typical beach injuries are usually not dangerous, but it essential to know how can they be avoided or treated if for example a sunburn or jellyfish sting already happened, and this is what we will be talking about right now.

Sunburn

One of the most preventable, yet still one of the most common beach injuries is getting a sunburn. Responsible sunbathing is proven to have benefits, but intense UV exposure can increase the risk of skin damage, and also skin cancer.

Woman sunbathing under umbrella
Make sure to always bring sun hat and umbrella to the beach

To protect your skin from dangerous sunrays, apply eco-friendly high SPF sunscreen regularly, but the best is wearing and UV protective clothing and a hat/bandana whenever in the sun but especially during water sports activities.

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Also, don’t forget the golden rule and don’t stay in the sun between 11am and 3pm. Never go to the beach without beach tent or umbrella so you can always protect yourself from the sun even if there is no shade.

Light sunburns don’t need to be seen by a doctor, just apply moisturizing cream or cooling after sun gel , drink plenty of water and don’t go back into the sun until your skin recovers. If you have or your kids have severe sunburn, seek medical assistance.

Heatstroke

Staying too long in the sun can cause not only sunburn but also heat exhaustion that is also easily avoidable, yet one of the most common dangers at the beach The symptoms include headache, dizziness, leg and arm cramping, extreme sweating, fast pulse and dizziness.

Lady is standing in the sun by the sea
Don’t spend too much time in the sun to avoid heatstroke

It doesn’t cause an emergency situation if the person can cool down within 30 minutes. Drinking plenty of water and spraying the skin with water and placing cold packs  around the neck helps a lot.

If the patient still has symptoms after half an hour of resting like high temperature and fast breathing, calling a doctor is needed.

Jellyfish sting

Although most jellyfish are not dangerous, but when planning a beach vacation, you need to be prepared and know what to do in case if getting stung and how to decide if you need medical care or home treatment is enough.

Jellyfish have stinging cells in their tentacles that usually cause only mild pain and discomfort, but some of them can be dangerous especially for very young and very old people, for those who have a weak immune system or suffer from allergies.

Jellyfish with long tentacles
Jellyfish with long tentacles – although they are not common, dangerous jellyfish can be present anywhere

When arriving at the beach, always check if there is any sign of stinging animals in the water. At maintained beaches there is often a sign that explains what type of jellyfish and other marine animals can be present stating if they are dangerous or not. If the beach is monitored by lifeguard, they place out purple beach flag is placed out when there is an abundance of dangerous marine pest.

So, what if you get stung by a jellyfish? First, leave the water as soon as possible, and if it is available, rinse the area with vinegar. Then remove the visible tentacles (you can do this with a clean pair of tweezers or even with a plastic bank card) and soak the area with hot, but not scalding water for 20-30 minutes. You can apply some cream (hydrocortisone) if you experience itching.

You generally won’t need to see a doctor and the pain/discomfort goes in a few days, but you need to go to an emergency room if venomous jellyfish were reported in the area, there is a sign of allergic reaction like fast pulse, difficult breathing, skin rash, when you can’t remove the tentacles, or you got stung close to the eye or mouth.

Ear and eye infections

Clear ocean water contains various skin-healing minerals, but unfortunately the presence of dirt and bacteria – that can cause infection, most commonly in the eyes and ears -belongs to the most common dangers at the beach. Swimmers often suffer from the so-called swimmer’s ear that happens when germs got behind the eardrum.

Girl is swimming in the ocean
After swimming in the sea, clear your ears and eyes with fresh water

If you experience pain and itchiness, or fluid draining out of your ear, wash it with clear water, it may be just some sand and salt causing irritation. If your symptoms still exist after a few hours, better to see a doctor as soon as possible because getting immediate treatment helps to avoid a more serious infection.

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To avoid such infections, the best you can do avoiding swimming if there is a chance of dirty water and washing the ears with fresh water after being in the ocean. There are also specific ear drops that create a waterproof layer inside the ear not letting bacteria in.

Sea urchin sting

Sea urchins live all around the world, mostly close to the shore, and since they are not easy to see, they can sting you when walking or swimming in the shallow water.

Therefore, always bring swimming googles or a snorkeling mask with you so you’ll be able to see if there are sea urchins underwater. Also, wear beach shoes to protect your feet.

black sea urchin
Black Sea Urchin – be careful where do you step in the water

They leave a tiny black spine behind when they sting that must be removed immediately before it gets deep. This can happen with tweezers or by soaking the affected area in vinegar (it dissolves the spine). After, the irritation/pain will be relived in a few days. Spines got into deeper tissues need surgical removal.

Coral cut

In tropical waters where reefs surround the shore, of the most common beach injuries that snorkelers and scuba divers face is getting injured by accidentally touching corals. While some coral species don’t cause any injury, others like fire coral are dangerous.

Contacting the rigid, sharp coral exoskeleton causes painful cuts, but the main problem is that the tiny polyps living in the skeleton leave a small amount of animal protein in the cut or even a stinging thread, which can lead to serious infections.

Fire coral in the sea
Fire Coral – Don’t touch it, this type of coral causes painful cuts

To avoid such injuries, it is essential to learn how to behave in the sea. You need to be confident in water using your snorkel or diving gear properly, swim calmly while keeping a safe distance from the reef, and also follow one of the most important beach safety rules: not touching any marine life.

If you have a coral cut without an open wound or infection, rinsing the area first with fresh water and then with acetic acid like vinegar as well as taking oral antibiotics should prevent the infection. However, if the cut is painful, there is allergy, infection or the coral dust cannot be removed from the wound, medical attention is needed.

Shell, glass and rock cuts

Most beaches have lots of small rocks, shells and even glass pieces so when walking or running on the beach barefoot, these sharp objects can cause cuts too, especially on the bottom of the feet.

When walking on the beach, be careful not to cut your feet

Usually, shell cuts are not too serious. Just stop the bleeding, clean the wound, and put a sterile bandage or plaster on it to avoid infection. If the cut is deep, seek a health care provider. To prevent such beach injuries, shell cuts, wear water shoes to protect your feet!

Mosquito and sand fly bites

There are several biting insects that typically live around water, so when spending a day by the sea, especially if you plan to stay late, you should count with the presence of mosquitos and sand flies.

Mosquito on the skin
Mosquito bites causes itching most of the times, but sometimes also infection

Their bite is not only painful, but on top of the pain, irritation, rash and even fever can occur since these insects can spread diseases too. Therefore, try to mosquito and sand fly bites avoid as much as possible. Wear long sleeve clothing in the evening, and pack insect repellents!

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Beach activity and watersport injuries

A vacation by the sea includes lots of beach activities, that of course like any sport, have their hazards. Getting injured while playing beach volleyball in the sand that changes consistency based on water content, or while having fun on a banana boat ride are among the most typical dangers at the beach.

Boys are playing beach volleyball
Beach volleyball is a fun activity, but be careful not to hurt yourself in the wet sand

The most common injuries while such activities are tissue injuries, muscle sprains and ankle ligaments, that usually are not that dangerous and can be avoided with a little precaution. However, it can happen that you will need emergency treatment, so don’t forget the most important, have a good travel insure!

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