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Staying safe in the water on your beach vacation

There’s something about big water that calls to us. For many, the perfect vacation includes a sandy beach in a tropical clime, plenty of sunshine and lazy days spent in, on or near the water. But as with everything in life, there are risks, too.

Beach and water conditions will vary depending on your destination. Whether your plans include an all-inclusive seaside resort in Mexico, a time share on a Caribbean island, or a vacation rental by owner in Belize, understanding the risks and making good decisions can help you stay healthy and get the most out of your beach stay.

Drink water and wear sunscreen

Sun-drenched beach vacations can be heavenly. But they can also lead to heat stroke and severe sunburn. Especially if you are from a higher latitude where the sun’s rays are less intense, your risk of burning quickly is high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 every two hours and every time you come in from swimming. When on the beach or in the water, stay well hydrated and avoid alcohol.

Pay attention to local conditions and warnings

The ocean is a changeable creature. Wind causes waves, and the stronger the wind, the more aggressive the water will be. In the U.S., beach visitors can rely on a colored flag system that signals swimming conditions from mild to extremely dangerous. But in other countries, there may be different systems or no system at all. Check with the concierge at your seaside hotel or resort for their recommendations or ask the lifeguard if there is one. It’s best to steer clear altogether when the surf is high.

Swim with a buddy near the lifeguard

Statistics show the chances of drowning at a beach with a lifeguard are five times lower than at a beach without. Lifeguards are trained to look for swimmers in trouble and can also advise swimmers to avoid rip currents that may not be visible. Look for beaches with lifeguards and, if there is no lifeguard, swim only in designated swim areas. Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties, which can cause rip currents. And never swim alone.

If you can’t swim, don’t use a flotation device

For non-swimmers, flotation devices may seem like a good way to be able to enjoy the water, but these can lead to a false sense of security. A flotation device can quickly take you out to a water depth above your head. If you fall off, you could drown quickly. The U.S. Lifesaving Association recommends that all non-swimmers and all children should wear Coast Guard-approved life vests when enjoying the ocean.

Pack a travel medical kit and watch your step

Broken bottles, bits of glass, fish hooks and shards of shells litter almost every sandy beach, no matter how pristine. Be alert and watch where you step. Waterproof beach slippers don’t take much room in your luggage, and are good protection. If you do suffer a minor cut, use your travel medical kit or ask the lifeguard, if there is one, for aid. Travelers who suffer a more serious injury and have SafeTrip Travel Protection can call our 24/7 Emergency Response Center for help in finding a doctor and getting care.

Buy travel medical insurance

While it’s true that many health insurance plans cover you while traveling internationally, it’s also true you will most likely have to pay for care at the time of service. This means paying on the spot, saving receipts and then waiting until you get home to submit a claim for reimbursement. With a SafeTrip Travel Protection plan, you get help finding a qualified doctor in the local area, translation help if you need it and most of your costs for care are taken care of on the spot.

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