7 things you need to know to stay safe at the beach this Fourth of July

It’s officially time for cookouts, easy, breezy summer style, and taking advantage of the natural light for Instagram selfies. With the Fourth of July coming up this week, you might even want to head to the beach. A day by the water sounds relaxing and fun, but there can be a few dangers associated with it, especially on the Fourth of July, considered the deadliest American holiday. In addition to vehicular accidents, which account for most injuries, accidents can also happen in the water and on the shores of many beaches.

We don’t say any of this to scare you, it’s all about staying safe while having fun. That’s why HelloGiggles asked the experts for their best beach safety tips, so you can enjoy the shores while avoiding common dangers.

From tips for non-swimmers who still want to take a dip in the ocean, to the easiest ways to spot heat stroke (in a person or your fur baby!), to why you might want to consider having a “water watcher,” the tips below have you covered.

1Stay hydrated


“Hydration is often an afterthought for swimmers, but it’s incredibly important to avoid dehydration,” said Caitlin Hoff, health and safety investigator for ConsumerSafety.org. “Though you are in water while swimming, you still will sweat from exertion and from the heat of the day.” So remember to keep sipping throughout the day.

2Know your limits


As someone who can’t swim, I know the struggle of wanting to join my friends in the water but also wanting to stay safe. Robert Hazen, founder of End Drowning Now, said it’s all about being aware of your specific limitations and surroundings. He advised non-swimmers not to “go above your waist in the water and always have someone with you who knows how to swim, or [stay] near a lifeguard.”

3Know how to handle a rip current


Even for those who can swim, getting caught in a rip current can be deadly or just downright scary. If this ever happens, aquatics manager for the American Red Cross Josh Rowland said you should do your best not to panic, and then signal for help. “Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, swim toward shore,” he told HG.

4Designate a “water watcher”


Rowland also said that if you’re with children, or even inexperienced swimmers, consider having someone in your crew who’s a “water watcher.” This is a person (or people) who keeps an eye on anyone in the water, ideally knows basic rescue techniques, and is trained in CPR. “Minimally, a water watcher would alert lifeguards and others that someone is in distress and to call 9-1-1. Watchers should avoid alcohol and be at least 16 years old,” Rowland told HG.

5Watch where you step


Dangers don’t just lurk in the water — you also want to watch your step on shore. “The beach has many other safety hazards to watch out for, like sharp objects, trash, or debris in the sand,” said Hoff. This is one of the reasons she suggests having a small first-aid kit on hand for any minor punctures or wounds.

6Protect your furry friend


You probably know the signs of heat stroke in humans (hot, red, dry skin; a bad headache; nausea; dizziness) but do you know the same for your dog? If you bring your fur baby to the beach, know that heavy panting, glassy eyes, red gums, weakness, and drooling can all be signs of heat stroke.

“If you suspect your dog has overheated, it’s important to get to the vet, but not until you’ve cooled your dog down first,” said Mark Van Wye, CEO of Zoom Room, a dog gym and training facility. Head to a shady area, give your dog cool (not cold) water and drape water-soaked towels over your dog’s chest, neck, and head. Even if your dog seems fine after the cool down, it’s still important to take him or her to the vet.

7Limit or nix the alcohol


Finally, all of our experts suggest being mindful of alcohol intake. While we all love a glass or two of rosé, alcohol can dehydrate you, especially in the heat. And if you plan on swimming and tossing back a few? Yeah, just don’t. “If someone is drinking, they should not be swimming at all because alcohol affects your motor skills, judgement, and reaction time,” said Hazen.

Stay safe and enjoy this Independence Day.

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