Top 5 Beach Dangers: Sun, sand, and surf pose risks

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Matthew Nordin - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A week at the beach with your family is part of the American Dream. But a day in the ocean carries with it dangers.

After talking with veteran healthcare providers who deal with traumas at the beach, we've narrowed down the Top 5 Beach Dangers for your family.

No. 5: Fish hooks

"I once had a patient who had a fish hook embedded in his upper lip," recalled Dr. John Charles, the medical director at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. "This was a lure that had three treble heads, so there was a total of nine hooks on this lure, and seven of them were embedded in his lip. So he got a bad deal off of that one."

Numb the skin, cut-off the metal fish hook and it'll hardly leave a scar, he says.

No. 4: Near drowning

You're out in the waves having a great time, when all of a sudden the current takes you away. You panic, tire out and go under.

Wesley Cox, a manager for Lack's Beach Service, has been a lifeguard on the Grand Strand since 1992. He knows that the danger doesn't end when the patient reaches the sand.

"We'll bring them in, they've taken in some water," Cox said. "They might seem fine at the time. But basically even though you're fine at the present time you can still drown a couple of hours later, so you need to get checked out by an ER doctor to make sure you don't have any ocean water in your lungs."

About 10 people die every day from drowning, according to the 2007 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

No. 3: Jelly fish and stingray attacks

Gabe Fraggasse, 13, was on vacation last week when the jelly fish got him.

"I was just out in the waves and felt it," he said. "I was stung before when I was little and just knew what it felt like."

Gabe wasn't stung badly. He compared it to a bee sting and said it went away after about 20 minutes, but some people can develop an allergic reaction, potentially putting their life in danger.

Charles says pain from a jellyfish sting can last hours. The best thing to do when a jelly fish stings you out in the ocean is to rub off the bags of toxin that stick to your skin after the attack, he said.

But do it in salt water, not fresh water.

"Fresh water tends to irritate them, makes them fire off their toxin," he said.

No. 2: Foot and leg wounds

Anything from deep cuts on your feet from the shells to breaking a bone because you don't see a hole someone's dug in the sand can be dangerous.

"People that are walking along just looking at the scenery a lot of times just don't see what's coming in front of them," said Capt. Stacy Roberts with Horry County Fire Rescue. "And they step in these holes and either break a leg or an ankle."

No. 1: Sunburn

It's not going to kill you on vacation, but later in life it puts you at risk for developing skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimated last year more than 11,500 people would die from skin cancer.

Put another way, one person dies of melanoma almost every hour. Charles points out that any tan means you have some skin damage.

"I don't know any dermatologists who have tans," he said. "You know, they just flat out don't have tans."

He points out sun damage is cumulative and doesn't go away even when your tan fades in winter, so put on that sunscreen and sit under that umbrella.

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Top 5 Beach Dangers: Sun, sand, and surf pose risks