These 9 Beach Safety Rules Can Seriously Save Your Life

The lazy days of summer are no time to get lazy about water safety.

Know your family’s swimming strengths and skill-levels

BlueOrange-Studio/ShutterstockSwimming in the ocean requires more strength and skill than swimming in a pool (which is why it torches calories). So-so swimmers may struggle when confronted with waves and currents, so unless you feel confident that you or a member of your family can handle the surf, stick to the shoreline.

Use the buddy system

TravnikovStudio/ShutterstockThe old chestnut your day camp counselor preached before every free swim session still holds true. Never go swimming alone, especially in the ocean.

Stay in sight of the lifeguard

katacarix/ShutterstockLifeguards are there for a reason, and it’s not just to hang out on a chair looking hot in a swimsuit. When swimming at the beach, go when there’s a lifeguard on duty and stick to the area between the flags. Don’t miss these life-saving tips from real-life lifeguards.

Learn the meaning of the Beach Warning Flags

Vinnikava-Viktoryia/ShutterstockGreen = Low hazard (exercise caution)

Yellow = Medium hazard (moderate surf and/or currents)

Single Red = High hazard (high surf and/or strong currents)

Double Red = The beach is closed to the public

Purple = Dangerous marine life (but not sharks), flown with either Red or Yellow.

Understand rip currents

Placid-Gorilla/ShutterstockRip currents, often mistakenly referred to as “rip tides” or “undertow,” are very strong currents of water that can be as long as 2,500 feet but are generally no wider than 30 feet. These powerful narrow currents move along the surface of the sea and usually occur at the points of the shoreline where the ocean is deepest. Rip currents can sometimes be seen from shore, when they interfere with the ebb and flow of a wave. Once you get caught in one, it can be extremely difficult to get out, especially for a weaker swimmer. To escape a rip current, curb your instinct to swim against it and head to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the beach rather than directly toward it. Eventually you’ll swim out of the current and will be able to turn and swim to shallower water.

Always keep your phone nearby

alekleks/ShutterstockShould you or someone nearby be in need of help, it’s always a good idea to be connected. Stick the phone in an easy-to-reach place in your bag—along with your SPF, of course—and hope you only need to use it to take vacation photos that can make you money.

Look out for sea creatures

icyyoke/ShutterstockComing in contact with a shark at the beach a la Jaws is pretty rare, but jellyfish and stingrays are a different story. Don’t touch—or even follow—one if you see any in the water; even a dead jellyfish can still sting you. Shuffle your feet in the water to avoid stepping on an unsuspecting critter. If anyone in your party gets stung, notify a lifeguard and seek medical attention right away.

Swim sober

Haley-Foon/ShutterstockRelaxing on the beach with a cold beer in your hand sounds like a perfect vacation scene. Trying to swim after one too many could end in disaster. Alcohol impairs your judgment, so you may not be able to notice a dangerous situation in the water, much less get out of it. Know your limits when you drink, and listen to your friends if they say you’ve had enough.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Sergey-Nivens/ShutterstockIf you’re not drinking enough water and not getting enough shade during a day in the hot sun, you’re putting yourself at risk of heat stroke. Know the symptoms: nausea, headache, confusion, a rapid heartbeat, and hot, bright red skin. Your dog is equally at risk, so make sure he doesn’t get overheated either.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest