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A guide to beach safety

Beaches are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful landscapes that the UK has to offer, and are popular all year round, no matter the weather. However, as beautiful as they may be, they also present a number of hazards but these can easily be avoided.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to stay safe at the beach, which will enable you to make the most of your holiday in Cornwall beside the sea.

Swimming

When possible, it is advised that you only swim on beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards and in the designated areas marked by the flags. The iconic red and yellow flags will show the safest areas in the water, and will be watched closely by lifeguards, who have the appropriate lifesaving equipment and skills should you find yourself in trouble.

You should never swim alone, and taking inflatables into the water should be avoided, especially on windy days, as they may drag you out to sea. The sea is particularly dangerous in the UK due to rip currents, which are strong currents that can quickly take you from the shallows to out of your depth. If you get caught in a riptide, you are advised to stay calm, wade to shore rather than swim if possible, and raise your hand while shouting for help.

Tides

Even for those who decide not to swim, it is important to still be mindful of the water as it can often catch people off guard. The water can come in surprisingly quickly, so when walking on the beach or along the coastline, you should always keep your eye on the direction of the tide. Coastguards are often called out when people find themselves stranded by the tide, as people are often unaware of just how much the water can come in, which can sometimes be as much as 10 metres.

The RNLI recently created this interactive website, which highlights the danger of water and just how unpredictable it can be. They also have an extensive list of over 200 lifeguarded beaches, which you can check before you head to the coast.

When visiting the beach, you may see someone who is struggling in the water, but it is important that you do not enter the water to help unless you are qualified. Try and alert a lifeguard, or instead call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

Waves

While these are one of the biggest attractions of the South West, and Cornwall in particular, waves can be a hazard if not respected as they should be. Surfers travel hundreds of miles to find the perfect waves, but you should bear in mind that each beach will have different characteristics depending on the conditions.

Spilling waves are great for beginners as they break consistently, and the RNLI advises that surfing newbies stick to these in shallow white waters. More advanced surfers will be likely to head into deeper water to tackle unbroken waves, but this should be left to experts, and even then approached with great caution. Dumping waves are often the most dangerous, as they break with great force in shallow water, and occur during low tide.

Wildlife

Depending on the time of year, there may be a number of creatures that you should watch out for, both in the sea and on the shore. Weever fish and jellyfish can cause painful stings, so they are best avoided if seen while at the beach, despite often grabbing a lot of attention from curious tourists. Weever fish stings can be eased with comfortably hot water, while jellyfish stings should be relieved with cold saltwater.

Insects such as wasps are also common on the UK’s beaches, and again should be stayed clear of when possible. If a sting occurs, these can be treated by cleaning with soap and water. You should also take an antihistamine, which we suggest you pack before setting off on holiday to a Cornwall caravan park as a precaution.

Sunburn

Statistics from 2011 indicate that 37 people in the UK are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, which goes to show just how important it is to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Believe it or not, the sun is capable of causing second, or even third-degree burns, which will become most evident 6 to 25 hours after spending time in the sun.

This highlights the importance of using sun protection, which is readily available in most supermarkets and pharmacies. If possible, the sun should be avoided during the hottest parts of the day, between 11am and 3pm, and sun cream should be reapplied regularly, especially after a swim in the sea.

This content was written by Alex Jones. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.

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