Photo of beach grass with coastline in background.

Safety Tips

Sarasota County's mixture of flora and fauna is a feast for the senses, but do take care with our natural attractions.

Note: The Florida Department of Health has also recently provided updated literature on beach safety information and information about vibrio vulnificus.

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Safety At the Beach

Rip Currents

Our open water and pools in Sarasota are some of our most precious vacation destinations. Keep your family safe by observing not only the commonly heard rules, but also the new ones.

  • Swim at lifeguarded beaches at times when guard stations are staffed.
  • Wear sun protection in the form of SPF clothing, or sun blocks that do not harm the health of the water.
  • If you’re not convinced that you float, wear a lifejacket in and on the water. 
  • When kids are in the water, designate a Water-Watcher: someone who has their eyes on the children at all times and is not looking at a phone or otherwise distracted. When one Water-Watcher is tired, rotate in another one.
  • Leave the water and the beach when there’s thunder or lightning. If you cannot get off the beach or away from the pool in time to get indoors to a pavilion or restaurant or restroom, lie down so as not to be the highest object around.
  • If someone is struggling in the water, do not go in after them. Extend a pole, rope, rake, broom from the side, or from shallow water at the beach-- if a lifeguard is not present-- so that they can feel it and grasp it to be pulled in. 

Stingrays and Sharks

Stingrays frequent our beaches during warm months. To avoid them, shuffle your feet through the sand. If you're stung, soak the area in hot water. Seek medical attention if the ray's barb breaks off into the skin.

Sharks are present in Southwest Florida waters, but you can avoid an encounter by not swimming at dusk or dawn. If a shark does approach, stay calm, let it swim past, then get out of the water.

Red Tide

Red tide is a naturally occurring algae that blooms and can kill marine life and cause respiratory irritations in humans. People with respiratory problems should avoid the beach when red tide is present.

On Dry Land

Dehydration

Stay hydrated and alert to symptoms of heat exhaustion. If you begin sweating heavily or experience muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, get help immediately. During hot weather, limit strenuous outdoor activities to the early morning or evening.

Insect Bites / Stings

Fire ants, wasps and bees inflict painful, burning stings that can usually be treated with topical creams and antihistamines. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing after an insect encounter, seek medical attention immediately.

Lightning

Florida is the lightning capital of the world. Lightning can travel 10 miles in advance of an approaching storm, so if you hear thunder, go indoors. Golf clubs, fishing rods and tennis racquets can act as lightning rods. If you can't find safe shelter, remember that lightning strikes the tallest object in an area, so make yourself the smallest.

General Tips

Sarasota County's mixture of flora and fauna is a feast for the senses, but do take care with our natural attractions. Below are some helpful tips for enjoying Southwest Florida.

  • Apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 about 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply often.
  • Stay indoors or shaded during peak daylight hours.
  • Wear proper protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Water Safety Tips

In Sarasota, our beaches and pools are some of our most precious vacation destinations. Keep your family safe by observing not only the commonly-heard rules, but also the new ones. 

  • Swim at lifeguarded beaches only when guard stations are staffed.
  • Wear sun protection in the form of SPF clothing or sun blocks that do not harm the water or its animals.
  • If you panic in water over your head, or if you’re not convinced that you float, wear a lifejacket in and on the water. Many lives are lost in the belief that, “It won’t happen to me.”
  • When kids are in the water, designate a Water-Watcher: someone whose eyes are on the children at all times and who is not distracted. Every 15 minutes, rotate in another Water Watcher.
  • On boats, especially if you don’t swim, wear a life jacket. Simply knowing where life jackets are won’t help you if you fall, hit your head, and fall out.
  • When your baby is near the water (tub, sink, pool, beach, bucket, toilet) for any length of time, and you need to leave for “just a second,” ask yourself if you want to risk it’s life. Take the baby with you, wet, dirty, regardless.
  • Leave the water and the beach when there’s thunder or lightning. If you can’t get off the beach in time to go indoors, lie down so as not to be the highest object around. 
  • If someone is struggling in the water, resist your instincts to go in after them. Extend a pole, rope, rake, broom from the side, or from shallow water-- if a lifeguard is not present-- so that they can feel it and grasp it to be pulled in. Touching a struggling swimmer is a virtual guarantee of being pushed and held under water so that they can get air: they are in survival mode. 
  • In a rip current, lie back and float on your back. If you can, swim on your back parallel to shore, not against the current. Many rip currents are circular and return you to shore within ~10 minutes. If you need help, wave. Lifeguards consider waving a call for help.
  • The difference between being safe and not being safe is the knowledge that you float, and that you can prevent yourself from panicking.
  • Learn to be safe in water over your head. We have many classes in Sarasota, even for visitors.