How to Prevent and Handle Common Beach Emergencies
We interrupt your regularly scheduled vacation with a quick message about beach safety. We won’t keep you long. This blog will just touch on the basic “what to do if….” questions you might have as you vacation in Sunset Beach, NC.
Perhaps you are visiting us from up North, where remembering sunscreen isn’t something on your daily to-do list. Maybe you are visiting from an inland state and you wouldn’t know a jellyfish from a jellybean. Or maybe you think... I’m a strong swimmer, I don’t need to worry about waves or riptides. Well, we don’t want to burst your bubble, but please read over this basic list of information about beach safety. We'll just feel better if you do!
What to do if ...
...you are stung by a jellyfish
1. Pluck any visible tentacles with tweezers
2. Rinse the area with vinegar for 30 seconds
3. Soak the affected area in hot water (110 to 113 F) for about 30 minutes
PREVENT IT: Do a quick survey of the water before entering. Do not enter the water if you see a jellyfish, as they tend to congregate in groups! Wait for them to disperse.
We don’t always see jellyfish in our ocean waters here in Sunset Beach, NC., but when we do, watch out! During a jellyfish “bloom”, we can see lots at at time. Jellyfish have been around for millions of years and show no signs of slowing down… in fact, they are sort of loving climate change and the warm waters that come with it. Luckily, when we see jellies on our shores, they aren’t usually around for long.
Learn more about preventing and treating jellyfish stings.
...you are caught in a rip current
1. Yell for help and stay calm. Don't fight it.
2. Float and rest as needed.
3. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current.
Even strong swimmers can get in trouble with rip currents on the Carolina coast. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water that flow away from shore.
Learn more about avoiding and surviving a rip current.
...you get super sunburned
1. Soothe with cool washcloths, aloe, and hydrocortisone cream. Take ibuprofen.
2. If you blister, lightly bandage the blisters and don't pop them. Apply an antiseptic or hydrocortisone cream.
3. Drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun until healed.
Serious burns may require medical attention. See a doctor if you have a fever over 101, are burned over 15% of your body, or are still in pain after two days. A doctor can prescribe a more powerful cream or painkiller, since some sunburns can be as serious as a first degree burn!
The sun is a form of radiation. Anyone who says "my skin doesn't burn, so I don't need sunscreen" is kidding themselves. Even if they don't burn, the cumulative effects of the sun cause long-term problems. You might be lucky to just get away with some wrinkles, but skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and one of the most preventable!
PREVENT IT: You already know that you need to apply sunscreen liberally and often (click here to research safe sunscreens). Throw away bottles that are 1-2 years old since sunscreen loses effectiveness over time. Don't forget the backs of your ears, lips, and eyelids! Wear a hat. Wear protective clothing on the beach. Try to stay out of the sun during peak hours.
Learn more about preventing and treating sunburn.
...a hurricane is on the way
1. Heed all watches and warnings
2. Evacuate if necessary
The "good news" about a hurricane is that you usually have plenty of notice when one is on the way! You will probably already be tracking the weather before you head out on your vacation. Hopefully you purchased travel insurance when you booked your trip. You can always call Sunset Vacations to get our recommendation based on our years of experience here on Sunset Beach.
...you experience heatstroke or heat exhaustion
1. Get indoors or seek shade immediately
2. Cool the body ASAP with water, a cold washcloth, ice packs, or a cool shower / bath
Heatstroke happens when the body overheats! It's most common in older adults and is especially common after prolonged exposure to hot, humid weather. Babies are also prone to heatstroke and can't always communicate that they need more hydration, shade, or air conditioning. Keep a close eye on the youngest and oldest members of your party.
PREVENT IT: Take frequent dips in the ocean to keep your body temperature down. Keep your trips to the beach (or outside) short (just a few hours at a time). Bring shade, like an umbrella or hat. Stay hydrated. Limit alcohol. Also, protect against sunburn, which can raise your body's temperature and lead to heatstroke. Heat exhaustion is a related but less serious issue.
Learn more about heatstroke.
Apps and Resources
Here are some apps and websites that you should bookmark before your next vacation to Sunset Beach, NC:
See local, up-to-date weather and beach conditions for Sunset Beach, NC.
Get notifications and the most up-to-date info through the NWS Twitter account (Wilmington).
Beach hazards and warnings are posted here.
The Red Cross offers several Apps, including First Aid, Emergency, Hurricane and Flood