A Few Tips for Florida Guests
Prepared by Dr. Carol
Lehtola, University of Florida
beaches are wonderful places to enjoy yourself. Swimming in the
ocean, playing volleyball on the beach, laying out
in the sun, or quietly meditating on Natures beauty...
there are many pleasures. Youre eager to get out there.
But if you are new to the beach, here are some safety precautions
that can help make your trip to Florida a dream instead of a
Be Safe in the Sun
It is very easy to underestimate
the Florida sun. At the beach, the sun not only shines above,
but is also reflected off water or wet sand. Thats twice
the sun. Many vacations are ruined by a first- day-of-vacation
sunburn that keeps visitors inside trying to treat their painful
skin. If you notice your skin becoming reddish or tender to the
touch, get out of the sun immediately.
- Always use sunscreen if you
plan to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.
- Re-apply sunscreen after extended
swimming or activities that induce a lot of sweating.
- Use sunscreen with at least
an SPF 15 (sun protection factor)If you are very fair-skinned,
a higher SPF sunscreen and spending less time in the sun are
Be Safe in the Heat
Sunscreen protects you from
the suns brightness, but what about the heat? The consistently
hot, humid conditions in Florida at the beach, on the
golf course, or during any outdoor activity can lead to
varying degrees of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can sneak
up on even very fit people.
- Drink plenty of fluids. (Be
careful if you must restrict fluids.)
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
They seem refreshing, but alcohol adds to dehydration.
- Protect yourself from the
sun with sun screen, and light loose-fitting clothes that cover
as much of your skin as possible. Sun damage limits the skins
ability to keep your body cool.
Be Safe on the Sand
The beach is a great place
to take walks or play. Keep these tips in mind when youre
on the beach.
- Bring shoes or sandals to
walk on hot sand. The dry, upper part of the beach can be quite
hot on your feet. Even though the sand is very light colored,
walking across it can feel like walking on a hot parking lot,
and you can burn your feet. In fact, walking across parking lots
and streets is another reason to have shoes or sandals handy.
- Watch for broken glass. People
should avoid bringing glass to the beach, but they do. The soft,
dry sand of the upper beach can hide sharp pieces of glass and
- On Florida beaches, you might
encounter large blobs of clearish jelly. These are jellyfish
that have washed up onto the beach. They are intriguing, especially
to children. However even dead jellyfish can have active stinging
cells. Do not touch them, poke them with sticks, etc.
Be Safe in the Surf
While many are content to relax
in the sun or play on the shore, one of the great pleasures on
the beach is playing in the surf.
- The most important thing you
can do to be safe around water is learn to swim. If you are not
a fair swimmer, do not wade in water deeper than your knees.
If possible swim in areas protected by lifeguards.
- Be aware of riptides. As tides
retreat, they can cause powerful underwater currents that pull
down and across rather than directly away from the shore. These
riptides can knock you off your feet and pull you under. If you
encounter a riptide, walking or swimming, remember to walk or
swim across the flow, not against it, and you will soon get out
- There are animals in the ocean.
So you may see or feel fish or the occasional crab. Despite news
reports, shark bites are extremely rare. The small sharks that
swim near the shore are looking for little fish, not toes or
fingers. Should there be more sharks than usual near shore, authorities
will issue an advisory.
Be Safe around Florida Critters
Florida is a subtropical state
and home to an amazing variety of insects as well as many kinds
of small animals.
Avoid fire ants. You wont
find these on the beach, of course, but in grassy areas, you
may notice what appear to be large ant hills. Do not disturb
them. The small brown ants inside swarm very quickly and over
a wide area if the mound is disturbed and their bites are painful.
Dusk and dawn are good times
for mosquito bites. Usually, strong beach breezes reduce the
risk of bites, but inland, in areas near a lot of fresh water,
mosquitoes can be a problem.
Although we have lots of wildlife
in Florida, you are not very likely to encounter an animal. It
should go without saying that you NEVER feed a wild animal. It
can be thrilling to encounter an animal, and you may be tempted
to throw them a tidbit to prolong their visit, however, feeding
only makes them comfortable around humans and thus more of a
risk. What may seem like a harmless gesture to you, only increases
the danger to other people and to the animal itself. Over-friendly
animals must often be relocated or destroyed.
A Final Word
Using reasonable precaution
will guarantee a safe and emorable trip to Florida. Its
a beautiful and exciting place. Be safe and come back often!