Beach Safety – Have Fun in the Sun

Think beach safety first when you're out for a day in the sun.

Before you pile the sand chairs and the cooler into the car, there are a few things you need to know about going to the beach; like sandspurs, jellyfish, sunburn, and why are those flags

flying next to the lifeguard station? I’m not trying to scare you off, but be aware that a day in the sun can have consequences if you don’t think ahead. Just like any outdoor outing, a day at the beach takes planning. Make sure you have the proper supplies, equipment, and knowledge for a fun and safe trip.

The shore is first and foremost where the ocean meets land and the result can be pretty violent sometimes. Waves vary with the tides and the weather, so you’ll find higher waves and greater risk of dangerous currents called rip tides just before or just after a storm. Here’s where those wonderful lifeguards and their colorful flags come into the picture.

Myrtle Beach Lifeguard StandLifeguards are there for your safety.

Beach Safety Flags 

In 2002 the International Lifesaving Federation adopted a system of beach safety flags as a way to let beach goers know the water conditions. Beaches along the Grand Strand use this system, so that’s why you’ll see the flags posted next to the lifeguard chairs on the beach. 

Here's what the flags mean.

Green = Low Hazard

Yellow = Medium Hazard/Moderate Surf

Purple = Dangerous Marine Life Present

Red = High Hazard/High Surf

Double Red = Water Closed to Public

Click here for more information on the beach flag warning system.

Jellyfish and Other Dangerous Marine Life

When you see the purple flag, keep a sharp eye out for jellyfish, both on shore and in the water and don’t step on them. Although normally not deadly, they can pack a painful sting which most often results in immediate pain and red, irritated marks on the skin. If you or someone with you gets stung and shows signs of a severe allergic reaction, or the sting covers more than half an arm or leg, you should call 911.

Jellyfish stingThe sting of a jelly fish is painful.

For normal reaction to a jellyfish sting, the American Red Cross recommends you rinse the area with vinegar or a solution of baking soda. This will deactivate the stinging cells. Then soak the area in hot water for at least 20 minutes if possible. Cold packs can be used instead if hot water isn’t available.

At Ripley's Aquarium you can swim with stingrays, but you really don’t want to encounter them on the beach. If stingrays have been spotted in the water, try the Stingray Shuffle. No, it’s not another version of the Shag. Stingrays like to settle themselves in shallow, sandy areas, and they will sting you when stepped on. To help prevent this, dig your toes into the sand and shuffle your feet under the sand as you walk through shallow water.

And finally, yes, sharks do live in the waters off Myrtle Beach. After all it’s their home first and your swimming hole second, So, if you spot a shark, get out of the water immediately and tell a lifeguard so they can alert other swimmers.

Sunburn Prevention

The best sunburn treatment is to not get one in the first place, but at the beach that’s not easy to do. So, use ...

Sunscreen!   Sunscreen!   Sunscreen!

Make sure your essential beach equipment includes plenty of water to drink and stay hydrated, plenty of sunscreen and a beach umbrella (tents have been outlawed on several beaches, but umbrellas are okay). Long sleeve t-shirts or swim shirts are also a good idea.

If you do get burned, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests:

  • Put a cold, damp towel on your skin.
  • Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin.
  • Take ibuprofen if the sunburn really hurts.
  • Drink extra water.
  • Leave blisters alone.


Need I say more?

Hurricane damaged beach houseA beach house at Pawleys Island after Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989.

June to November is hurricane season and these storms can do a lot of damage. The good news is that with modern hurricane tracking and forecasting, you'll have plenty of warning time. If you are told to evacuate, do so. Don’t mess around. If you wait until the last minute, you could find yourself stuck on the beach or worse, stuck in traffic. Click on the button to the right to learn more about hurricanes and how to prepare for them

Even without a hurricane in the Atlantic, beach safety is something you should be aware of at all times, from rip tides to beach flags to sandspurs – oh yes, those. They look like this.

SandspursSandspurs are spiny and they stick in your feet, clothing and everywhere.

They stick in your toes and the bottoms of your feet and hurt like the dickens. They grow in and along the edges of the dunes so that’s another good reason to not walk on the dunes. You’ll see them in the grasses as you come off the dune walkovers, so avoid them.

Beach Laws

Yes, much as we hate to admit it, we do need rules sometimes to make things go smoothly, even at the beach. Over the years, Horry County, Myrtle Beach and other are municipalities have enacted regulations that cover things like dogs on the beach, what kind of shade devices are allowed, alcohol, surfing, and more. These laws may seem like an intrusion into your privacy, but beach safety is for everyone's benefit. Click here to find out about beach laws, rules and regulations at Myrtle Beach.

Remember, have fun, but be aware that whenever you are outdoors, you are in Mother Nature’s realm and she can sometimes be pretty ruthless. Know the beach safety flag colors and what they mean, watch out for critters in the sea and know when a hurricane is approaching.

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