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Galveston Beach Safety Tips

Safety and Beach First Aid Information

Going to one of the Galveston Beach areas is always fun. It doesn't really matter what the weather is (other than maybe a hurricane), the sound of the waves, fresh air, and dramatic views are always worth the trip. But it's always a good idea to be aware of some safety issues and also bring along some basic first aid items just in case you have more of an adventure than you planned. Keep an eye on the weather, always have an eye on anyone who goes in or around the water, and pay attention to possible threats in the water.

Galveston Beaches Map

The number one thing to consider is the effects of the heat and Sun. Even on a cloudy and cool day you can still get a sunburn. Wearing a hat and light clothing is a good idea for long stays. Applying a sunscreen lotion of at least SPF 15 or more to any exposed areas will help too. Always bring non-alcoholic beverages, water being the best, and drink often to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. Sugar and caffeine drinks are not a substitute for water and may even cause nausea in severe heat.

Know the Galveston Beach Flag system colors and what they mean. Flags of different colors are used to designate current conditions of air, weather, and water quality. Here are the colors and what they represent:

Fair Conditions Green – Fair conditions and water calm.
Some Strong Currents & Waves Yellow – Some strong waves and currents, caution advised.
Air or Water Quality Poor Orange – Air or water quality is poor.
Dangerous Marine Life Present Blue – Dangerous marine life is present or been spotted (jellyfish, sharks, stingrays, etc.)
Strong Waves and Currents Present Red – Strong waves and currents present, stay out of deep water (over waist deep).

If you go in the water, never swim alone. If possible, always swim where lifeguards are on duty. Wear some kind of beach or water footgear to protect against metal, glass, or other dangerous items on the beach or in the water. 

Both manmade and natural shells items can have sharp edges and cause problems. Make sure you have a good disinfectant (alcohol swaps will do), some plain water to flush the area, and some type of band-aids or coverings to protect against any possible contamination. If bleeding is hard to stop or the cut is deep, immediately seek professional medical attention.

Here's a list of emergency numbers and locations on Galveston Island:

For any life threatening situation - Dial 911

UTMB Emergency Room - (409) 772-1191
901 Harborside Dr.
Galveston, TX, 77555

West Isle Urgent Care - 409-744-9800
2027 61st Street Galveston, Texas 77551
Open 9 AM to 10 PM - 365 days a year

Galveston Beach Patrol - (409) 763-4769 

Never underestimate the water conditions, currents and wave action. Waves and undercurrent can surprise anyone, especially the young and elderly. Swimming in the ocean is not like a swimming pool. Always take some kind of coast guard approved flotation devices along just in case. A swimmer in trouble can panic and be difficult to save even for the most experienced swimmer. Stay calm and be aware of your own limitations before you try and save someone. A quality flotation device and 15-20 ft of rope can make a huge difference in any emergency.

Another threat when in the water is the possibility of dangerous marine life. Jellyfish come in many variations, some dangerous, and some harmless. The Portuguese man-of-war is dangerous and often floats near the surface. If you see them washed up on shore, it's a sign they are in the area and going in the water is not a good idea. Even when they are out of the water the tentacles can still be able to inflict stings and toxins that will be painful. If you come into contact with a tentacle, wash area off with saltwater first. Most minor stings will stop hurting in 15-20 minutes with little or no treatment other than flushing with clean saltwater (vinegar and meat tenderizer can't hurt but probably won't make any difference).

Cabbagehead Jellyfish
Cabbagehead Jellyfish

Moon Jellyfish
Moon Jellyfish

Man of War Jellyfish
Man of War Jellyfish

If any breathing difficulty occurs or changes in awareness, it's possible an allergic reaction is happening and you should treat it as a serious medical emergency. Benadryl is good to have along and can greatly reduce the allergic reaction but medical treatment may still be warranted. It really depends on the amount of areas that contacted the tentacles and the individual's resistance to the toxins. If in doubt at all, immediately seek medical treatment. If a itching or a rash develops after the sting, a hydrocortisone crème apply 3-4 times a day will sooth and stop any itching.

Most other jellyfish like Moon or Cabagehead are harmless but it still may be a good idea to stay out of the water just in case. Or move down the beach area until you see no evidence of any jellyfish. Other marine life such as sharks and stingrays may not be visible but present. Always be alert to any activity in the surf and if in doubt, stay out of the water.

Other possible beach threats include snakes, crabs (you will be surprised at the amount of pressure these little critters have when they pinch you), and insects of all types. If there is a constant breeze, flying insects won't be a problem but there still may be ants (especially fire ants in the grassy areas), and other crawling insects that can cause problems.

It never hurts to buy or make a small first aid kit that has the items mentioned above and take it on any beach trip. Most times you'll never need it but when you do you'll be happy to have it. The flotation device and rope are important too. Some type of beach umbrella or shaded area to get out of the sun, and SPF 15 sunscreen lotion will help keep you from getting sunburned and beach footwear will protect you from cuts and scrapes. 

A little attention to local weather and water conditions, swimming where lifeguards are present, and paying attention in general is always a good idea on any trip to the beach. It never hurts to be prepared for any possible problems and can insure a safe and fun trip.

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