Summer is the time for laid back fun: relaxing on the beach, swimming and playing. In Cyprus we spend much more time outside than other countries due to the long and hot summers. With the recent and very sad death of an 11-month-old boy at a beach in Kissonerga, I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone how to keep you and your family safe at the beach and in the heat.
Beaches and the Mediterranean are relatively calm in comparison to oceans, but don’t be deceived as there have been many fatal accidents and near drownings. Recently, a mother was standing in the sea holding her 11-month-old baby boy when a strong wave went over them. The mother could not hold on to her baby – the wave combined with the strong current took the baby away. Despite speedy bystanders who helped find him at the bottom of the sea then desperate measures to revive him at the scene, they ultimately could not save him. He died 2 days later at Nicosia hospital where he had been urgently transported. It is a tragedy that I hope no one else has to endure. The beach in question is in the Kissonerga area of Paphos and does not have warning signs or a lifeguard. Many people swim at these quieter beaches and it is a luxury to have so many beautiful and secluded beaches to relax on, but when swimming, please try to remember the following to avoid any more tragedies.
1. Never swim alone.
2. If you are caught in a rip current, swim sideways until free, don’t swim against the currents pull.
3. Don’t rely on floatation devices alone to protect children, but always make sure they wear them.
4. Alcohol and swimming don’t mix
5. Never dive into unknown waters.
6. Never become overly confident.
7. If you are in trouble shout, wave and call for help.
8. Only swim in designated areas (if posted)
Combined with swimming and water safety, heat exhaustion is another factor that goes hand in hand with long days at the beach. The Cyprus sun is strong and the humidity and temperature get so high it can be debilitating. Even if you can not feel the heat because you are in and out of the water or in the shade you can still become overheated to the point of exhaustion.
I have personal experience with this in the August, Miami heat – weather comparable to Cyprus. My wife and I spent a couple hours on the beach, strolling, by the pool then when it cooled down at around 6pm, we went for a slow jog on the beach. Then the problems began…it was over 100 degrees yet she was trembling, shaking and dizzy. To make a long story short we spent the night in the hospital where she was administered a potassium drink and 5 bags of IV fluid to rehydrate her over a 24 hour period. X-rays were taken of her lungs and a CAT scan of her brain to ensure there was no dangerous swelling due to the heat. This was a learning experience and she was fine but we had a scare as it all happened before we knew it. A mistake we made was that once we had realized she was dehydrated, I encouraged her to drink water. This only depleted the electrolytes in her body making her worse. She needed something with salt to replace what had been lost. This brings me to what you should do to avoid a potentially fatal situation or something like what happened to us:
1. Make sure to drink enough fluids like Gatorade or Lucozade and Water.
2. Stay in the shade or air conditioning if possible.
3. Wear loose, light clothing
4. Avoid drugs, alcohol, caffeine and sugar which can cause dehydration.
5. Be especially careful with babies and the elderly who are more susceptible to heat exhaustion.
6. Exercise in the early morning/late evening or inside if possible.
Lastly, always wear sunscreen. A child can burn within 10 minutes! Sunburns can be extremely painful, dangerous and increases the risk of future skin cancer. Please remember these basic and key points to staying safe during the summer. If you have any additional pointers please share them with us so we can all have fun and enjoy our summer in Cyprus or wherever you may be!