July 2, 2007
This summer, thousands will head to the beach.
"Tampa, Florida - The Hillsborough County Health Department
has issued a health advisory for Ben T. Davis Beach due to
elevated levels of bacteria found in the waters. As a
result, the beach has been closed to swimming. Patrons can
still sunbath on the beach or picnic, but it is recommended
that they not enter the water. Signs have been posted and
staff is on duty to monitor and alert the public of the
health advisory. ... According to the Hillsborough County
Health Department, heavy rains cause polluted storm water
runoff as well as waste from boats, pets, wildlife and
human sewage, which contribute to the rise in harmful
Tampa Bay's 10 News
Beaches around the country are periodically closed to
swimmers because of high bacteria levels in the water. To
reduce the risk of illness from bacteria found in the
water, you can check with local health officials before
going to the beach and/ or look for posted signs when
Whether or not you see signs posted, it is always best to
check with the lifeguard about the safety and conditions of
the water before swimming or wading. They can often
recommend the safer sections of beach and water while
letting visitors know about possible unseen hazards.
"Lifeguards closed Shepard Park beach on Memorial Day after
they performed more than 200 rescues during a three hour
period. ... The heavy surf along the coast of Central
Florida has punched holes in sandbars, allowing rip
currents to funnel through the holes and pull swimmers out
to sea. Meanwhile, in Daytona Beach, dozens of people were
rescued after getting trapped in rip currents, Local 6's
Tarik Minor said. 'It is a risk for everyone,' lifeguard
Libby Michelini said. 'It is a risk for strong swimmers and
small children and we are really trying to make sure we
don't have any bathers caught in those.' There were also
two near-deaths in the surf in New Smyrna Beach Monday,
Minor said. Lifeguards in Daytona Beach said they have been
fielding calls about missing children all day because of
the strong currents."
Rip currents can be dangerous for everyone: from the
smallest child to the strongest swimmer.
"Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water
flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the
shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of
breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with
breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. Rip currents can
be killers. The United States Lifesaving Association
estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip
currents on our nation's beaches exceeds 100. Rip currents
account for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Rip currents account for thousands of rescues each year.
Unfortunately, not everyone is rescued. To increase the
chances of surviving a rip current, it is important for
people to know ahead of time what to do.
"If caught in a rip current:
* Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
* Never fight against the current.
* Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off,
which you need to step to the side of.
* Swim out of the current in a direction following the
shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away
from the current--towards shore.
* If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float
or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim
* If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to
yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
While rip currents are one of the most common hazards
hidden in the water, there are other -- less common --
hazards that often get more attention and should certainly
not be ignored.
"Florida beach closed after sharks sighted.
A beach in Florida had to be closed off when a group of
bull sharks was spotted swimming close to shore. Lifeguards
were forced to evacuate the area as the group of around six
bull sharks moved as close as 3m from South Walton beach.
Hundreds of swimmers had to leave the water, while
lifeguards used jet skis to herd the sharks to deeper
water. The sharks, some estimated to be as long as 3m,
stayed for two hours before eventually moving on."
In addition to the hidden hazards, there can very obvious
hazards that are just not seen as dangerous.
"Waves and sharks aren't the only dangers at the beach.
More than two dozen young people have been killed over the
last decade when sand holes collapsed on them... Among them
was Matthew Gauruder, who died in a collapse at an
after-prom beach party in Westerly, R.I., in May 2001. The
17-year-old was playing football with friends when he
jumped for a pass and fell backward into an 8-foot-deep
hole someone had dug earlier. Sand hole collapses occur
horrifyingly fast, said Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard
Medical School, the report's lead author. 'Typically,
victims became completely submerged in the sand when the
walls of the hole unexpectedly collapsed, leaving virtually
no evidence of the hole or location of the victim,' wrote
Maron, an internal medicine resident. ... People naturally
worry about splashier threats, like shark attacks. However,
the Marons' research found there were 16 sand hole or
tunnel deaths in the U.S. from 1990-2006, compared with 12
fatal shark attacks for the same period, according to
University of Florida statistics."
WAOI, San Antonio
While very few would choose to swim with a shark, many see
digging a hole at the beach as a right.
"[Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School] and others
advise the public not to let young kids play in sand
unattended, and not to get in a hole deeper than your
knees. On Martha's Vineyard, lifeguards are instructed to
order children and adults out of any hole deeper than a
child's waist, and to kick sand in to fill them, [Dennis
Arnold, who runs the beach patrol in the Martha's Vineyard
community of Edgartown] said. Occasionally, some parents
protest. 'They'll say "You're ruining my kids day!" I say
"I don't care,"' Arnold said. Mavis Gauruder, who lives in
Fort Mill, S.C., said she's tried to issue similar
warnings, like the time she came upon a father digging a
hole with a garden shovel for his young son. She went up to
the pair and warned them of the dangers. The man seemed
unmoved, so she finally told him she'd had a tragedy in her
family involving a hole collapse. 'I asked them to fill in
the hole. They did, but they looked at me like I was
interfering,' she said."
WOAI, San Antonio
Questions of the Week:
What do you need to know before going to the beach? What do
your friends and family members need to know? What would be
the best way to get them this information in a way that
they would listen? How is this information different if the
beach is on an ocean, lake, river, or other body of water?
Where is the line between having fun while being careful
and being paranoid?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum