Rip currents are narrow channels of water that are quick, powerful, and move in the offshore direction. They can affect people of all ages, regardless of their swimming experience. A rip current may pull swimmers away from the shore at a rate of 8 feet per second, causing them to get trapped in deeper waters than anticipated.
Rip currents have been found to result in at least 100 deaths annually at beaches within the US and have been found to account for over 80% of lifeguard rescue initiatives. It is important to be educated on how to stay safe in the water and, ultimately, avoid being caught in a rip current now that the summer months are here.
How to stay safe in the water:
- Before considering a beach day, check the weather for thunderstorms, lightening, and strong winds. These conditions are not suitable for swimming in the ocean or boating.
- Take swimming lessons to protect yourself and others in case of emergencies.
- If you are a parent, supervise your child at all times while at the beach.
- Only go in the water if there is a lifeguard or if there's someone certified in CPR
- Learn CPR to help others in case of emergencies. Classes are available at local Red Cross Centers or EMS.
- Always enter the water feet first and avoid drop-offs and hidden obstacles in the ocean.
- If you are planning on boating, take a boating safety course beforehand.
- When boating, avoid alcohol even if you're not operating the boat.
- Wear a life jacket at all times while boating and avoid air-filled life jacket substitutes.
- Avoid going in the ocean alone.
- Most importantly, avoid water currents! This includes avoiding dangerous waves, water that seems to be heading away from the shore, and water that appears discolored, foamy, or choppy.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are no longer trapped. Then, swim diagonally toward the shore.
Statistics show that drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages and the second leading cause for children ages 1 to 14. By using precautionary measures, drowning rates due to rip currents can be greatly reduced. Be sure to check the weather and look for warning signs of rip currents before putting yourself at risk.
Written by: Brianna Lopez, PharmD Candidate
For more information visit: https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowningrisks/