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Seaside Safety: Protection From Hidden Dangers at the Beach

By Amanda Genge, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
7/25/2012 12:11:03 PM

You've slathered the kids in sunscreen, packed the umbrella and loaded the cooler with drinks and snacks. Their personal flotation devices are stowed and ready to go. You've covered all the bases when it comes to beach safety, right?

Well, mostly. While jellyfish stings don't happen all the time, and shark attacks are even rarer, it can't hurt to be prepared just in case.

Swimming smart when it comes to sharks. Even though shark attacks are not common, they are a big source of fear for parents and kids alike.

The International Shark Attack File reported 50 shark attacks in the United States in 2007. Most of those occurred along the Florida coast. The file is maintained by the University of Florida.

Most shark attacks occur in near-shore waters. While the relative risk of getting attacked by a shark is very small, play it safe by using caution when you wade in:

-Swim, dive or surf with others. Sharks are more likely to attack someone who's alone.

-Know which spots are dangerous. Avoid swimming between sandbars, near steep drop-offs, near channels or at river mouths where sharks are found.

-Steer clear of tainted water. Avoid areas with known runoff or sewage. Also keep away from spots where people are fishing, especially if there are signs of bait or feeding activity, such as diving seabirds.

-Don't believe old wives' tales. Some people say that spotting porpoises means no sharks are around. This is just not true. Both animals often seek out the same kinds of food.

-Be careful in murky water. Also, don't wear shiny jewelry that might look like the scales of a fish, and avoid contrasting, bright-colored clothing.

-Time your swim right. Do not swim at dusk or at night, when sharks are most active.

-Refrain from excessive splashing. And do not swim with pets in the water. Their erratic movements mimic those of sharks' prey.

-Stay on shore if you have an open wound. Do not enter the water if you are bleeding. Women and girls may want to avoid swimming if they are menstruating. Sharks can smell blood from far away.

-Keep calm if a shark is spotted. Move quickly and purposefully to shore but don't splash or thrash in the water.

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