Life’s no beach for lifeguards

DEALING with rips, bluebottles, sharks, brown snakes and heatstroke are all in a day’s work for North Coast lifeguards.

While a day on the beach may seem like an idyllic escape from the worries of the world, lifeguards are urging holidaymakers and locals to prepare properly and remain alert to the dangers on the beach, in the water and on the bush tracks leading to beaches.

“A few common sense precautions can assure you will have a great time,” Northern NSW Lifeguard Co-ordinator Scott McCartney said.

With the latest figures from the Royal Lifesaving Society showing a horror holiday period with 41 drownings so far across Australia, including 10 drownings between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve alone, lifeguards are warning swimmers to take extra care.

Figures showing that alcohol has played a part in 40 per cent of the drownings are reflected in the day-to-day work of North Coast lifeguards.

“The majority of the incidents on the beach and in the water are alcohol related,” said Mr McCartney.

“That includes everything from dehydration to people getting into trouble in the water, but also things like blokes playing footy and getting too aggressive.”

With Australia Day on the horizon, Mr McCartney recommended people get down to the beach early before they start celebrating.

“The beach and alcohol is definitely not a good mix.”

He advised beach goers to read the information signs provided by lifeguards and the local councils and if they are unsure about anything to ask the lifeguards.

“Always look for the flagged area and never swim alone,” he said.

“If you get into trouble stick your arm straight up in the air. That message seems to be getting forgotten these days.

“We often go out to check on someone and they say they’ve been struggling for a while.”

Mr McCartney also warned beach goers to be careful around rocks and on tracks leading to the beach following a surge in brown snake sightings and an incident yesterday on Byron’s Main Beach.

“A guy was walking up the rocks rather than the path and got bitten on the foot by a 2m brown snake. The lifeguard applied a compression bandage and he was taken to Byron Bay Hospital by ambulance and treated.

“With a big snake like that it’s important to seek treatment quickly, as symptoms can set in pretty fast. Don’t forget to wear shoes and be alert.”

Bluebottles and sea lice have also been apparent this season with the prevailing North Easters.

“The best way to avoid sea lice is to not swim in seaweed, particularly the ‘corn-flake’ seaweed.

“The best method to treat blue bottle stings is to rinse with hot water.”

On the bright side, Mr McCartney said there had been a considerable drop in shark sightings since the incident at Wategos last week.

“Again, the best way to avoid a run in with sharks is to swim between the flags,” he said.

“You’ll have a lot more sets of eyes on the water to warn you.”

Drownings from December 2009 and January 2010
  • NSW – 14: Bateau Bay, Murray River, Lake Hume, Ballina, Yamba, Shoalhaven, Edward River, Point Potter, Albury, Moruya, St Clair, Lake Glenbawn, Bellambi, Port Macquarie.
  • QLD – 11: Tangalooma, Brisbane, Thomatis Creek, Agnes Waters, Tallebudgera Creek, Surfers Paradise, Sunshine Coast, Dimbulah, Thursday Island, Gold Coast.
  • WA – 3: Perth, Yallingup, Fremantle.
  • VIC – 6: Cape Shank, Melbourne, San Remo, Gippsland, Glen Waverley, Lancefield.
  • TAS – 1: Bruny Island.
  • NT – 3: Palmerston, Alice Springs.
  • ACT – 1: Canberra.
  • SA – 2: Semaphore, West Lakes.

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