5 Things that Could Ruin Your Day at the Beach
Some of the best things about beach season: boardwalks, babes, and bikinis. Unfortunately, you might have to dodge the worst things first--jellyfish stings, sand filled with feces, and lethal rip currents--to get to the beautiful women. Make your beach day disaster-free by avoiding these seaside health hazards.
Unlike mosquitoes, which prick your skin, sand flies (no-see-ums and biting midges, for example) gnaw into you with tiny teeth before sucking up your blood. They don't carry disease but may leave you covered in itchy bumps that last about a week.
Banish bites: Scratching through your skin can lead to infection, so prevent bites by applying a deet-based repellent before you hit the dunes and every time you dry off after a swim.
Every year, one in six people contract a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And since bacteria breed faster in a warm environment, cases tend to spike during the summer, says Men's Health advisor Ted Epperly, M.D. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and fever.
Pack smart: Stash spoilage-prone foods, like meat and mayo, deepest in your cooler. Eat them within a half hour of taking them out.
"Salt water isn't sterile," says Dr. Epperly. In fact, polluted water can harbor bacteria that cause conjunctivitis, a.k.a. pinkeye. And the more time you spend splashing around, Dr. Epperly warns, the more likely you are to end up with itchiness, redness, discharge, and tearing.
Flush the pain: Eyes itchy? Rinse them with tap water a few times over 2 hours. If your symptoms worsen, see a doctor. You may need antibiotic eye drops.
Of 2,000 known jellyfish species, only 70 cause serious harm to humans. If you're stung, expect a painful, burning reddish or purplish rash.
Burn it out: Apply heat, which changes the toxin's protein structure to neutralize pain, says Paul Atkinson, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., of Dalhousie University. So scrape the stingers out with a credit card and give the area a 20-minute soak in water just hotter than a hot tub (109°-113°F). And no one has to pee on you.
E. coli from animals (or rather, their poop) and runoff from sewers and septic tanks can live on warm sand. It's one of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) biggest concerns for beachgoers, says spokeswoman Enesta Jones. If you're infected, expect to have diarrhea within a day.
A shark isn't your top underwater enemy. Rip currents are behind more than 80 percent of lifeguard rescues and 100-plus drownings every year, says B. Chris Brewster of the U.S. Lifesaving Association.
Beware the calm: "Rough water is often safer than the calm spots," says Brewster. Caught? If you can't escape by swimming parallel to the shore, go with the current. Once it dissipates, try again.