Beach Bacteria Safety Tips, Symptoms To Watch For, & First Aid Treatment

Our recent article advising beach goers of high bacteria counts in the water near Galveston and The McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge drew a lot of interest and concern. In order to help answer your questions and keep you informed, we’ve researched and collected information about precautions you can take to protect your family from bacterial infection, spot symptoms early, and treat injuries that happen at the beach.

Beach Bacteria Safety Precautions:

  • Avoid beaches that test high for bacteria. Before swimming, check your Texas beach at www.TexasBeachWatch.com.
  • Never drink ocean water, untreated water, or use such water to rinse off produce or dishes.
  • Use a nose plug when diving or swimming to avoid consuming or inhaling contaminants through your nose.
  • Avoid exposing cuts or skin abrasions to any untreated water, salt or fresh.
  • Take a shower with soap and potable water after swimming.
  • Those with compromised immune systems should avoid beaches with elevated bacteria levels and check themselves thoroughly for broken skin before entering any water.
  • Some people – such as diabetics or cancer survivors, or HIV sufferers – should ask their doctor before swimming in ocean or fresh water.
  • If an open wound is exposed to ocean or fresh water, the area should immediately be washed with antibacterial soap and fresh potable water (see below for more first aid tips)
  • If redness, swelling, itching, fluid buildup, or fever occur, see a doctor immediately (see below for more symptoms of infection).

 

Bacterial Infection Symptoms:

If you develop any of the following symptoms, see a doctor immediately. You will need to start antibiotics promptly to keep the infection from spreading or causing other complications. Bacterial infection symptoms, and the time it takes for an infection to develop, may vary based on the type of bacteria and from person to person. Symptoms include:

  • Red or irritated looking skin
  • Blisters, boils, or lumps
  • Rash including pimples, red splotches, or irritated chafed skin
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Any wound that becomes raised, swollen, itchy, or oozing, should be seen by a doctor immediately.

First Aid Tips For Injuries At The Beach:

You may enter the water with no injuries, only to scrape your toe on a rock while wading in the sea. Should you become injured, the following first aid treatments are recommended to help you avoid infection:

  • Get out of the water and stay out of the water.
  • Control bleeding by applying pressure to the wound.
  • Thoroughly clean the wound by rinsing it with sterile saline or clean tap water. Do not use water from the ocean, a lake, or other untreated water source.
  • Use an antiseptic, such as Hydrogen Peroxide, to rinse and clean the wound.
  • If possible, let the antiseptic solution sit on the effected area for 5 minutes. Soaking a sanitary gauze in antiseptic and holding it on the wound can make this easier.
  • If coral or rocks were involved, scrubbing the wound may be necessary to remove grains of sand and debris. If this is too difficult, or if the injury is on a child, seeing a doctor is recommended.
  • Don’t cover the wound too tightly, as this may close bacteria into the wound.
  • If the cut is small enough, leave the wound uncovered so it can dry, scab over, and heal naturally.
  • If the wound is large or vulnerable to re-injury, cover it gently with sterile gauze or bandages.
  • If bleeding is excessive, is difficult to stop, or if there is skin that needs to be trimmed from the wound, visit an ER or urgent care center immediately.
  • If you have a weak or compromised immune system, you may require antibiotics to avoid an infection. See a doctor as soon as possible.
  • At any sign of infection, remove bandages and see a doctor. Antibiotics should be started promptly.

Information Sources:
Galveston County Health District
Mayo Clinic
Larry M Baddour, MD, FIDSA

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