Staying Safe at the Beach

Beach Safety

Sun, sand and surf. These are what draw thousands of visitors to our shores every year.  But these are the very things that can put a cramp in your vacation. Follow these common sense safety tips so you can be sure your vacation will be all about fun in the sun.

Hanging out in the sunSwim Near A Lifeguard

According to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), rip currents account for at least 100 deaths each year in the United States, and more than 80 percent of all ocean rescues are related to rip currents. The most important precaution you can take when it comes to rip currents, is to swim near a lifeguard. The chances of drowning at a beach with a USLA affiliated lifeguard are 1 in 18 million. Check with lifeguards about potential hazards. They can advise you on the safest places to swim. Go to to find beach accesses with lifeguards.

Rip Currents

Rip currents can materialize quickly on the Outer Banks. These powerful channels of water extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone and past the line of breaking waves. Signs of a rip current include churning, choppy water, an area that has a notable difference in the color of the water, or a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward. Rip currents often occur where there is a break in the incoming wave pattern. If you find yourself being pulled seaward, stay calm and don’t fight the current. If you are able to, swim in a direction following the shoreline. When you are free of the current, swim at an angle, away from the current and toward shore. If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water and when the current weakens, call or wave for help. To learn more, visit

Heat Exhaustion

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States. Heat exhaustion – dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, profuse sweating, nausea and/or rapid heartbeat – is a serious condition that should not be ignored. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler location, apply cool wet clothes to your skin and sip water. If symptoms do not improve, a person should be examined by a health professional to make sure that heat stroke, which can be deadly, is not developing. To prevent heat-related illnesses, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and seek shade during hot weather.

Hot sand

In the summertime, it’s estimated that sand temperatures can reach as high as 120 degrees. Third degree burns occur when water temperatures approach 130 degrees, so you can only imagine what that hot sand is doing to the bottom of your feet, even if you sprint for the water. Always wear shoes when you come to the beach. While it may be cool when you arrive in the morning, by mid-day the sand could be scorching. Remember that kids are even more sensitive to the temperatures and be careful with pets, too. Consider leaving the pups at home during the heat of the day.


Unfortunately, sunburned tourists are a common sight in the summer. Sand and water reflect the sun’s rays, increasing your risk of a sunburn. Remember that the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so be sure you have shade available, especially for the little ones. Sunscreen is a must. Look for one that is water resistant (and remember to reapply), protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of 30 or higher. A bad sunburn has the potential to ruin the rest of your vacation, not to mention the health risks that are associated with overexposure.

Other things to remember while visiting the Outer Banks:

  • Pick up your belongings when you leave the beach for the day. Also be sure to fill in any holes you may have dug as they are dangerous to both wildlife and human beachgoers, especially at night. Take a designated trash bag with you and be sure to remove any litter when you go. Clean beaches are healthy beaches!
  • It is illegal to intentionally come within 50 feet of the Corolla wild horses. They are unpredictable and dangerous, and best viewed from afar. It is also illegal to feed the horses. Unnatural food items can harm or even kill the horses, and it makes them more likely to seek out humans for food. A good rule of thumb for all wildlife is to be respectful and keep your distance – Outer Banks ecology is fragile!

Stay safe and happy during your vacation by adhering to these simple tips. Most Outer Banks towns have websites outlining local rules and regulations, so if you’re in doubt – do a little research. Always err on the side of caution so you can be sure that you and your family have a wonderful stay. Enjoy!

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