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While there have been recent reports of shark attacks, don’t let that deter you from planning your beach vacation. Sharks sure look scary, but they usually don’t dine on human flesh. In fact, statistics out of the Florida Museum show shark attacks are far less common than Hollywood would have you to believe. According to scientists, you have a 1 in 11.5 million chance of getting attacked by a shark. If that still doesn’t set your mind at ease, consider you have less than a 1 in 264.1 million chance of dying in that shark attack.
Although shark attacks are rare, there are other significant safety issues on the beach. Unfortunately, the most dangerous activities are often hidden in plain sight. Be sure to read through these five common accidents before heading out on your summer holiday.
Five Accidents That Are More Fatal Than Shark Attacks
Swimmer Safety: Know How to Survive Rip Currents
When you’re swimming in the cool coastal waters, remember that rip currents are a far greater threat than shark attacks. Statistics from the US Lifesaving Association now suggest about 100 Americans perish in these powerful currents annually. By contrast, shark attacks usually only kill about five people worldwide each year.
The best way to avoid rip currents is, well, to avoid swimming in dangerous areas! You should always ask a lifeguard for the most up-to-date conditions before entering the water. Typically, rip currents are most prominent in the summer and can be distinguished from the white crashing waves.
If you happen to get caught in a rip current, the worst thing you could do is fight it. Indeed, the reason most people die in rip currents is that they spend far too much energy pushing against the current’s force. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you need to relax and only swim with the current once it brings you back to shore.
For more tips on rip current safety, click on this link put together by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Don’t Dehydrate – How to Avoid a Heat Stroke
Shockingly, the sun poses a far greater threat than a great white shark. Not only could the sun’s UV rays cause skin cancer (see below), they could also induce a severe heatstroke. Officially known as hyperthermia, heat strokes happen when your body’s internal temp rises in response to hot weather. Health experts estimate there’s now a one in 7,770 chance of dying due to heatstroke.
Here are a few of the most common warning signs someone is suffering from this condition:
- Shallow, rapid breathing.
- Hot, dry skin.
- Confused speech and memory impairment.
- Complaints of nausea.
- A faster-than-average heartbeat.
If you notice someone near you experiencing these symptoms, you need to call 911 ASAP. Without prompt treatment, a heatstroke could cause injury to vital organs or death.
For the best chance of survival, bring the heatstroke patient to a cool place while waiting for medical professionals. If possible, put ice packs, wet towels, or cold water bottles on the patient to bring down their internal temp.
The key to preventing heat strokes is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. You could also use electrolyte packets to give yourself a re-hydration boost, especially if you’re exercising outside. If you’re going to stay outdoors for a long time, be sure to wear light, breathable clothing and find a shady place to relax.
The Dark Side of The Sun: Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is another sun-related issue that’s far more deadly than shark attacks. Sadly, the Skin Cancer Foundation now believes at least two Americans die from skin cancer every 60 minutes. Dermatologists also point out one in five Americans will have to deal with skin cancer before they reach the age of 70.
Thankfully, research suggests there’s an easy way to prevent this deadly disease: apply high-quality sunscreen every day. According to the experts, sunscreens with a strength of SPF-15 or higher are the most effective.
Be sure to apply a liberal coating of your sunscreen before going outside. If you’re staying on the beach all day, set a reminder on your phone to re-apply sunscreen every two hours.
How Deadly Is Driving? – The Current Rates of Auto Accidents
If all of our phobias were logical, then far more people would be terrified of driving to the beach rather than swimming in the ocean. The National Safety Council (NSC) says we have a 1 in 114 risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident. Even more alarming, the Association For Safe International Road Travel estimates one person dies in a road collision every 24 seconds.
To help bring down these troubling statistics, many cities are working with the Swedish-based Vision Zero project. Analysts who work in the Vision Zero Network help track car crashes and formulate actionable solutions to improve traffic safety.
Although governments are working hard to improve traffic safety standards, that doesn’t mean motorists could sit back and hit cruise control. Drivers need to be proactive about their safety, which means maintaining a safe speed limit, obeying all traffic signs, and avoiding distractions like smartphones and food.
For more tips on avoiding traffic collisions, be sure to check out this CDC portal on Motor Vehicle Safety.
The Seriousness of Slip-and-Falls
Ironically, it’s safer to swim than it is to stand on our own two feet! The NSC now suggests one in 127 people die in a falling accident every year versus one in 1,188 for unintentional drowning.
Unsurprisingly, as we grow older, slip-and-falls become an increasingly dangerous threat. Indeed, the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) suggests one in three Americans over 65 will fall at least once. Often these falls result in significant fractures that can seriously impair a person’s mobility.
Slip-and-falls are especially common at home, in parking lots, or grocery stores. No matter your age, it’s essential to have a clear sense of your surroundings wherever you’re walking and to discuss any balance concerns you have with your doctor.
To help prevent a slip-and-fall catastrophe, consider investing in a medical alert device to get in touch with 911. You might also want to consider practicing low-intensity balancing exercises like Tai Chi or yoga a few times per week.
Jaws Is A Great Movie—Not A Great Depiction Of Reality
Please don’t take the “bait” whenever you see a scary shark news story. Yes, you should take precautions when swimming on the beach, but you also need to exercise a bit of common sense. Many everyday scenarios are far more lethal than a great white’s jaws. Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought before you head out to your favorite beach retreat.
Photo Credit: Caribbean Reef Shark by Neil deMaster via Flickr.com