By Brian Acton
Going to the beach is a great recreational pastime that can involve lounging by the waves, playing in the sun, or going swimming. Most avid beachgoers are probably already aware of the risks involved with going into the water, which include riptides, wildlife such as sharks and jellyfish, and undertow.
But you don’t have to get in the water to get injured at the beach. Here are some of the most common beach injuries that can happen on dry land.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harsh at the beach, especially on days with little cloud coverage. Trips to the beach can last hours or all day long, which can lead to prolonged exposure to the sun. All this time spent in the sun can cause painful sunburns (and even skin cancer later in life). It pays to prevent too much exposure to UV rays.
When you’re at the beach, you can take these steps to prevent sunburns:
- Use sunscreen on every exposed area of your body and reapply every two hours
- Avoid the sun from 10AM to 4PM, when the sun’s rays are stronger
- Take breaks in the shade using a beach umbrella, canopy, or other covering
- Cover up with hats or long-sleeve protective beachwear
- Wear UV-blocking sunglasses
- Heat-Related Illness
Spending all day in the heat and sun without hydrating or taking breaks can cause heat-related illnesses. There are three main types of heat-related illness:
- Heat Cramps: severe cramps in the legs or stomach can occur after too much exposure to heat. Drinking fluids and cooling down indoors or in a cool bath can abate these symptoms.
- Heat Exhaustion: symptoms of heat exhaustion include pale skin, excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. Most of these symptoms are caused by dehydration. Mild symptoms may be treated with hydration and cooling down, while more severe symptoms may need medical intervention.
- Heatstroke: the most serious heat-related illness, heatstroke can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include hot skin and a high fever. Anyone suspected of suffering from heatstroke should be taken immediately to the hospital.
The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is frequent hydration and taking breaks in the shade (or better yet, air conditioning) to cool down.
- Alcohol-Related Injuries
For some people, alcohol and the beach go hand in hand - but drinking too much on the beach can lead to a number of issues. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration, as you will lose fluids more quickly in the heat. Alcohol can also restrict your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature, which can cause heat illness. If you must imbibe, do so in moderation and make sure to regularly hydrate with water.
- Running in Sand
The beach is popular for running and beach sports including volleyball, disc throwing, and other activities. But running on sand is risky and more challenging than running on a solid surface like pavement. Sand has much more give and is less stable, and the consistency of the sand can change based on how wet it is. Taking a wrong step can cause a muscle strain, sprained ankle, and other soft tissue injuries.
These types of injuries are difficult to predict, but you can reduce the risk by avoiding quickly stepping from dry sand to wet sand and vice versa. Try to take it easy and go slower than you would on a more stable surface.