Late summer brings some real significant changes to the beach front that can impact what you need to do to stay safe.

In spring and early to midsummer, we are almost overwhelmingly concerned with rip currents and keeping people out of them. As we move into hotter weather and calmer water conditions, other concerns come into play as well. With a few safety precautions you can avoid most or all of these.

To be clear, rip currents are the primary safety concern on the beach year-round. The current running perpendicular to shore that is generally found near the rock groins is a constant hazard. It pulls offshore and takes sand with it, leaving a trough. Even on the calmest of days you want to avoid swimming or wading near structures that stick out into the water, obey warning signs, and swim near a lifeguard, who will remind you if you slip up.

If caught in a rip, stay calm, call or wave for help, and just float. If you’re a good swimmer, swim parallel to shore until you get out of the rip current then to shore.

If someone else is caught in one, don’t go in after them. Call 911 or signal a guard, throw a float or rope or extend a reaching object to them.

But now that we’re in a calmer weather pattern and the heat has hit, be sure and take precautions for the heat and sun.

Wear light-colored, loosefitting clothing, apply sunscreen with a high SPF rating, wear protective glasses with a high UVA and UVB protection, drink plenty of fluid and seek shade periodically. If you feel weak, dizzy or disoriented and have paler than normal, clammy skin, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. Get cool and out of the sun, drink fluids and self-monitor.

If left unchecked this can lead to heat stroke, which is an extreme emergency. If you stop sweating and have hot, dry skin and a reduced level of consciousness, it’s critical that you cool down and get to a hospital as soon as possible.

When the water gets calm, lots of critters can move closer to shore unmolested by heavy wave action.

We’ve seen a drastic increase in stingray hits the past couple of weeks, including a couple of lifeguards. The barbs are loaded with nastiness and usually break off under the skin causing certain infection.

Treatment is lots of heat on the puncture site, which alleviates the pain rapidly. You should always seek medical care so they can check if there’s a broken piece of the barb in there and start you on a course of antibiotics.

The good thing about stingrays is that they’re easily avoided. Shuffling your feet when in shallow water lets sting rays and a bunch of other critters know you’re in the area so they can make a quick getaway. After all, if some giant, weird looking creature tried to step on you, wouldn’t you fight back however you could?

On the Beach

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.

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