Beaches, docks and pools are great leisure centres for us during the summer, providing fun and recreation.
Walking, bathing and swimming there is very beneficial for our health. Public authorities watch over the hygiene and sanitation conditions in these areas, so that citizens can enjoy themselves.
But citizens must exert caution, too, and prevent the accidents and lesions that happen every year in this season: cuts and wounds, jellyfish stings, drownings, knocks and traumas… Many of them can have really serious consequences for our health.
In the summer there’s a noticeable increase in the number of emergency department attendances to people suffering some traumatological lesion: diving accidents, falling or plunging into water, in the sea or the swimming pool.
Reckless diving and jumping usually leave serious after-effects, as in almost 100% of the cases they cause complete spinal cord injuries (tetraplegia). Besides, often the diver is not the only one to suffer damages. Adults or children receiving the impact of the reckless swimmer can be badly hurt, even worse than the imprudent bather.
Drowning accidents, as a general rule, have their origin too in the users’ carelessness; maybe they pay no attention to the beach warning flags, maybe they don’t follow the basic safety precautions before bathing.
On the other hand, apparently inoffensive games, like pushing people into the pool or making them stay under water for a while, as youngsters often do, can end in death or permanent brain damage. And we must not forget small children, who, if they can’t swim too well or get into dangerous swimming areas, are particularly at risk of drowning.
Unfortunately, jellyfish are a part of summer too, and we must follow the lifeguards’ instructions and the signs warning us of their presence in the beach.
– Don’t underestimate the risk. The only way to avoid being stung is refraining from swimming, and that applies to the shore too. If you fill a bucket with sea water and refresh yourself, it could contain fragments of stinging tentacles.
– Don’t ever touch jellyfish (or any part of them), even if they are stuck on the sand. They retain their toxicity after death.
– If you had contact with a jellyfish and had no perceptible reaction, don’t touch your eyes or mouth, as these areas are much more sensitive.
– Pay attention to the warnings and follow the directions given at the beach (loudspeakers, signs, flags) or aired by the media.
– If you see jellyfish and no warning has been issued in the area, notify it to the nearest lifeguard station or to the local authorities.
– Using sunscreen can reduce the risk of being stung, but it won’t prevent it totally.
– Wear protective clothes, covering all of your body (goggles, neoprene suits, gloves, surf or diving shoes…).
– Children are specially sensitive to jellyfish stings: watch them, teach them about this danger and don’t bath them.
– Older persons, people with a history of allergies, cardiovascular disease or asthma, or those who have been stung by jellyfish before, must avoid any contact with them.
– Don’t scratch nor rub the affected area, not even with a towel or sand. That will only make it worse.
– Wash the affected area with saline solution or sea water, making sure it’s free from any fragment of jellyfish tentacle. Don’t use fresh water.
– Don’t apply ammonia, urine or vinegar.
– In case you can’t get to a lifeguard station, remove the tentacles adhering to the skin with tweezers. If you don’t have tweezers handy, use any object with a narrow edge.
– To relieve pain, apply cold, preferably ice, intermittently, for 5 to 15 minutes. Don’t rub and be sure not to put the ice directly against the skin. Never apply heat and don’t expose the affected area to sunlight.
– For symptomatic treatment of jellyfish stings, you can use specific gel or ointment, antihistamines and analgesics.
– If there’s an open wound, it’s advisable to apply an antiseptic three times a day, till it’s closed.
– Go to the lifeguard station in the beach or to the nearest health care centre.
– If the affected person has a history of stings we should keep an eye on the possible onset of immediate or late phase allergic reactions.
WARNING: if you observe symptoms as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cramps, headache, respiratory trouble and malaise, please go to the nearest health care centre or call 1-1-2, specifying, if possible, the species of jellyfish responsible for the sting.
Jet skis and aquatic toys
Caution is the best policy when we are engaged in water sports like jet skiing and other nautical activities, involving boats or aquatic toys.
Unfortunately, balcony jumping or “balconing” has become a common practice among young people looking for fun. It consists in crossing from one balcony to another to get to the next flat or room (it’s usually done in hotels and apartment buildings). This reckless “sport” causes many hospital admissions, with high mortality rates among the young.
Thanks to the prevention campaigns we launch yearly we have seen a decrease in the incidence of these practices. But we must go on insisting.
If your family and friends spend hours in the beach, enjoy water sports or, simply, you’d like to surprise them with a good piece of advice…