Sun, Fun, and Safety First in Sarasota

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Life in Sarasota can be so grand, so relaxing, and so much fun. It’s truly a beach town, although I know she would prefer to be called a city. There are a few safety tips to note if you’re a new resident or visitor.

If you are a new follower of Townie Tourist, you’ll need to know that I’m all about safety. Wear helmets, hold onto handrails, keep your arms inside moving vehicles, cross in crosswalks. I think I’ve either talked about or written about nearly every safety issue. Okay, okay, full transparency… in high school I used baby oil and maaaaybe SPF4 oils as tanning lotions. A tan was THE BEST ACCESSORY in the 80s. Now, a tan is the last thing on my mind. Safety is first!

Sun Safety and SPF

UV rays are not our friend, y’all. I’m just going to say it because it’s true. EVERY skin tone needs to wear SPF. From the darkest melanin to the lightest. Sun burns skin and damage is done no matter what color your skin is. So seek out an SPF that you like because you’re going to be using it a lot.

The hours that UV is at its highest is 10AM to 4PM.

Did you know? We should be reapplying our sunscreen every two hours even if we aren’t at the beach. Holy cow! There are a million brands to choose from and I’ve tried A LOT of them trying to find my perfect solution. Here are a few that I tried and really liked.

Stick with this - Salt & Stone SPF 50 Mineral Stick - I use this daily. A hint of color. Reef safe. Full coverage mineral SPF and made in the USA. I also use their SPF 30 for days at the beach or on my hands.

Super Matte - Supergoop! Mineral Makeup Mineral Matte Screen - It’s so soft you almost can’t feel it going onto your skin. Matte, smooth, and protective. I love this one a lot and am about to grab another tube. SPF 40 and also blocks blue light.

For Every Skin Tone - UnSun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen - Founder Katonya Breaux started this company as a solution to the lack of SPF options for women of color. Turns out every woman is a different color and her two options work for most everyone. Holla, lady makers!

$$$$ - Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart SPF 50 - The queen of cosmetics wins with this do-everything luxe lotion. Gorgeous, light, and protective. It’s not cheap, but smooth as silk.

Not just for dudes - Jack Black Oil-Free Sun Guard SPF 45 - no white residue and a combo of chemical and mineral.

On the Go - Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Brush - I didn’t want to like this, but I do. And it’s so soft I reapply often, which is key.

Other items to help prevent burns and sun damage:

Sunglasses - UV 400 is pretty standard and polarized ones make looking at the waves even easier.
Hat - Baseball caps or wide-brimmed hats help minimize glare and give our skin and head a break from the sun.
Long sleeves - Linen or cotton are great materials that are breathable and save your skin during long hours in the sun.

Beach Safety

Rip Currents

Swimming skills are important. Always go with a buddy into the water if you can. The Gulf of Mexico is beautiful and inviting, but it also has some pretty strong currents. A rip current can pull you further out really quickly and if you aren’t a strong swimmer here’s what to do.

  1. Wave your arms and yell for help while treading water. Try to stay calm though. Rip currents won’t pull you down, they will only pull you further away from shore. You could float and wave your arms for help instead of expending a lot of energy trying to swim through it.

  2. Stay Calm. Again, rip currents won’t pull you under, just away from shore. Keep your head above water, tread water, and steady your breathing.

  3. If you’re a strong swimmer, swim parallel to shore until you’re out of the current. Then swim diagonally to reach shore.

Check out the Beach Warning Flags before going in the water:

Double Red Flags = NO SWIMMING
Red Flag = Dangerous Swimming
Yellow Flag = Use Caution
Green Flag = Good Swimming Conditions
Purple Flag = Dangerous Marine Life

Also, a Yellow Sign with Black Borders means that sharks, sting rays, jellyfish, and red tide are present and to be very aware of your surroundings at all times.

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Do Not Pee on a Jellyfish Sting

The Gulf Coast has some pretty and pretty nasty jellyfish that travel around and it’s good to be prepared in case you come in contact. Jellyfish are pretty slow-moving and tend to hang out in the waves, letting their tentacles catch tiny fish. Avoiding them just means being aware of your surroundings. While there are hundreds of types of jellyfish, the most common in the Gulf Coast area are:

  • Moon Jellyfish

  • Cannonball

  • Portuguese Man-Of-War

  • Sea Nettle Jellyfish

  • Blue Button Jellyfish

  • By-The-Wind-Sailor

  • Mushroom Cap

  • Mauve Stinger

  • Box Jellyfish

The Box Jellyfish and the Portuguese Man-Of-War are the most dangerous and can actually be deadly. The Smithsonian spoke with a jelly expert (that’s actually what they’re called!) to get the real scoop on what to do if you’re stung.

What to do if you’re stung by a jellyfish:

  1. Douse the area with vinegar, to rinse away the tentacles and deactivate the stinging cells. If you do this first, you won’t spread the sting to other areas when you attempt to remove the tentacles.

  2. Pluck off or gently lift off the tentacles with tweezers. Don’t rub them with sand since it can trigger active stingers to release more venom.

  3. Apply heat, not ice. “Cold preserves the venom that’s already been injected, and in some cases may even enhance the action of the toxin. Instead, heat permanently inactivates the venom.”

Do the Stingray Shuffle

Stingrays are also all over the Gulf Coast. Two ways to avoid being stung by their tail barbs are:

  1. Do the stingray shuffle and instead of stepping. Sting rays only sting when harassed or attacked and being stepped on counts as both. Shuffle your feet through the Gulf or Bay water and through the sand. This will disturb them and they’ll take off.

  2. Throw a heavy shell or a handful of sand into the area where you want to swim. Stingrays have great hearing! Not really. Being peaceful creatures, they’re sensitive to surface sounds and will leave the scene if it’s too disruptive.

Don’t Look Like Bait

Sharks are fish too. How do you catch a fish? Shiny objects. How to avoid a shark bite:

  1. Don’t look like bait. Take off shiny jewelry and watches. A shark may bite if they think you are a shiny fish to feed upon.

  2. Floating on a raft? Stay closer to shore and calmly float rather than flailing around like a hurt sea animal.

  3. Fishing? Don’t keep bait in your pockets or tie your catch line to yourself to keep hold of it. Sharks have a great sense of smell and a terrible sense of sight. They don’t know the difference between you and your bait or catch. It all smells the same to them.

  4. Don’t go into the shark’s house. An extreme measure but wading on shore or staying in very shallow water is also an option. I like being knee-deep or thigh-high myself. It’s just as easy to float when you’re an arms length from the bottom. Just sayin’.

Stay Hydrated

This means with W A T E R. If you are drinking alcohol, be sure to partner your brew with a bottle of water to stay hydrated in the full sun. When drinking you’re more likely to forget sunscreen and safety tips, so pace yourself. SRSLY. Optionally, you could just leave the bottle at home, along with your phone and truly chill out.

Now go have fun!

Being prepared and knowing what to do in these situations actually frees your brain up to relax more and have a better time at the beach. So pack your bags and have a blast knowing that you’re ready for almost anything. I mean, we didn’t talk about lionfish or sun poisoning, but it’s fine…we’ll get there.

Ok, go slather on that SPF and get outside!