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Can You Guess the 5 Biggest Beach Dangers? (Hint: It's Not Sharks)

August 9, 2014

While it may seem pretty dangerous to head to the beach these days —with crash-landing planes, lightening strikes and flesh eating bacteria — incidents like these are pretty rare. 

You can throw shark-related deaths in there too.

More common dangers lurk that could make your beach holiday a real bummer.  And most of them are avoidable with a little precaution.

Here are the most dangerous things at the beach.  

The water may look calm, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to rip currents. (Photo: AP)

1. Rip Currents

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dangerous, rip currents — which are moving streams that pull swimmers out into the water — are the leading hazard for beach-goers and cause more than 100 fatalities every year.  If you get stuck in one, it is best to swim with the current, not against it, and swim parallel to the shoreline until the stream finally spits them out. Most victims of rip currents actually die of exhaustion, not drowning, because they tried to fight the rip current and ultimately lost.

Lather on the sunscreen — over-exposure and sunburns are a huge danger at the beach (Photo: AP)

2. Sunburn

Feeling like a lobster after a day at the beach is no fun — and getting a bad burn can be dangerous even deadly. Heat disorder symptoms include sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke — which can lead to death. Sunburn can take up to 24 hours to reveal its full damage. If the burn is severe, accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help right away.

It may be fun to make a sand castle, but it may be deadly to dig a sand hole. (Photo: AP)

3. Sand Holes

You might want to think twice before digging that hold to China.  More people are killed or injured every year from a sand hole collapsing than a shark attack. This month, a 26 year old man died after a sand tunnel he was digging collapsed.  Recently, a 12-year-old boy died after being trapped in a sand tunnel. Large holes dug in the sand will collapse unless supported and could cause injury to you or others on the beach. Don’t dig holes deeper than your knees and fill in any stray holes you may see at the beach.

Who knew you could get food poisoning-like symptoms from the beach? Scientists. (Photo: AP)

4. E. coli

At least nine people have died this year in Florida from a from flesh-eating bacteria that thrives in warm seawater called Vibrio vulnificus. But harmful strains of E. coli are a much more common at beaches and lakes and are an indicator of fecal contamination in the water.  Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and a mild fever, according to the CDC. To avoid getting sick, go online and check the websites for the local beaches, parks and lakes and swimming areas for water quality warnings. Also, wash your hands frequently at the beach and try not to swallow water when swimming.

Don’t ever touch a jellyfish. Even dead ones washed up on the beach can release poison. (Photo: AP)

5. Jellyfish

Of the 2,000 species of jellyfish, only about 70 seriously harm or may occasionally kill people.  The box jellyfish are an especially dangerous class because have tentacles covered in tiny cnidocysts — or stinging cells — that each contain a dart and a lethal poison. But a sting from the most common jellyfish, called scyphozoans, usually results in a painful, itchy, and raised red rash that lasts for a few days. Wear protective footwear and if stung by a jellyfish, the best way to determine how the sting should be treated is to have a health professional identify the species. And remember, using urine to treat a sting is an old wives tale and can actually aggravate the wound.

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