GC: Day at the beach: Plan around hazards like jellyfish, currents
June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.
The Texas Gulf Coast offers fishing, surfing, dolphin watching, beach combing and more as people flock to local beaches in search of an endless summer. Oceanfront experts like Port Aransas beach guard supervisor Mike Lauer dedicate their season to making sure beach-goers have a fun and safe time. This guide will outline hazards and ways to remedy emergencies as they arise.
Although these formidable foes usually frequent the beach in late summer, jellyfish are a natural part of the coast. The best way to avoid their painful sting is to recognize what they are and stay away from them, said Lauer, a 12-year veteran of the beach force.
"There are things in the water you aren't going to like, but they're there and you just have to be aware of them."
A typical on-the-beach resident is the Portuguese Man-O-War, he said. And while they are pretty to look at, they're painful to play with.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the "long, thread-like tentacles can reach up to 15 meters and are armed with thousands of stinging cells called nematocysts."
When a person is brought to the one of five guard towers of Port Aransas, Lauer said several steps can ease the sting:
Clean the affected area with salt water.
Apply a paste of Adolph's Meat Tenderizer and alcohol (or hydrogen peroxide) at the site. Adolph's is used because of its ingredient papain - an enzyme that helps to break down proteins found in jellyfish toxins.
Scrape the area with a credit card, or something similar, to remove the nematocysts, much like a bee sting.
Don't put ice or fresh water on it, though, warned Lauer, as it will constrict the wound, keeping the toxins in the skin.
Camouflaged in the sand of shallow coastal areas, stingrays pack a punch when their tails' barb embeds in your skin. This usually occurs as an unsuspecting wader shuffles up against them, putting the ray on defensive.
If this occurs, Lauer said these steps should be followed:
Clean the site of the puncture wound and remove the barb if possible.
Put a hot pack on the area until a tub or sink can be filled with hot water, as hot as you can stand it without burning yourself, he said. This will take the pain away.
Those who've had a barb embedded should consult with their doctor.
The strong winds at Port Aransas and Corpus Christi beaches are great for creating a surfer-friendly environment; however, swimmers should be aware of the current's force.
Rip currents, which can quickly carry a person out to sea, are more common near the jetty, while the heavy northern or southern currents are in the common swimming areas, Lauer said.
"People can be swept down the coast in a matter of minutes, in another part of the swimming area, without even realizing it. We get a lot of lost kids coming up on the beach," he said.
Luckily all the lost children they've encountered have been recovered and returned safely to their parents.
A few other perils the beach-bound face are dehydration, sunburn and drowning, Lauer said. Adhering to the common-sense advice you've grown up with, like wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of liquids and knowing how to swim, are good practices to keeping the fun times going at the beach.