Stingray stings, sunburn and rough surf can put a damper on a summer vacation. Dr. Jason Curry, an urgent care physician with Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC – a part of Atrium Health – offers 10 tips to keep in mind to have a safe and happy Lowcountry visit.

News, Your Health | 27 days ago

10 Ways to Avoid Ruining your Beach Vacation

Stingray stings, sun poisoning and severe weather can put a damper on a summer vacation. Dr. Jason Curry, an emergency department physician with Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC – a part of Atrium Health – offers 10 tips to help you have a safe and happy Lowcountry visit.

The Lowcountry of South Carolina remains one of the most popular summer tourist destinations in the country. From its sandy beaches to its calm harbors, pine forests to palmetto clusters and all the history and attractions that dot the landscape in between, it is truly a charming part of the South.

Stingray stings, sunburn and rough surf can put a damper on a summer vacation. Dr. Jason Curry, an urgent care physician with Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC – a part of Atrium Health – offers 10 tips to keep in mind to have a safe and happy Lowcountry visit.

But if you're not careful, this stretch of oyster beds, sea turtle nests and salty marshes is not without its pitfalls. Jason Curry, MD, an emergency department physician with Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC, part of Atrium Health, answers 10 questions to help tourists learn about the area and avoid becoming one of his patients.

Question No. 1: The Lowcountry is one of the most popular beach destinations in the summer months. What are some of most common injuries you see from tourists during this time?

Answer No. 1: Sun- and heat-related injuries are common. These include sunburns of varying severity and heat-related conditions ranging from mild dehydration to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Q2: The ocean’s power is much different than the bodies of water many tourists are accustomed to. What’s the best advice you would give tourist beachgoers about ocean safety?

A: Always be aware of your surroundings when enjoying the ocean. This is especially important as weather conditions, including inclement weather and water conditions, can change quickly. Even the strongest of swimmers can have difficult in rough seas – so remember never to swim while under the influence of alcohol and always enter the water with a swim partner.

Q3: What do beachgoers need to pay attention to at the beach?

A: Inclement weather is a frequent occurrence in the Lowcountry. Be aware of local weather forecasts prior to embarking on a day at the beach. Watch carefully for any signs of dangerous weather while you are out as not all weather can be predicted in advance. Powerful storms can develop quickly and bring dangerous changes in water conditions and lightning. Visitors should also know and be aware of the warning flags they will see at lifeguard stations. These alert beachgoers to local conditions or possible threats in the water. It is always advisable to swim under the direct supervision of a lifeguard as even the strongest of swimmers can encounter challenging ocean conditions or even experience an unforeseen medical emergency during a swim.

Q4: Besides the water itself, the ocean can also be full of marine life unfamiliar to many who aren’t local. What do swimmers need to look out for?

A: The most common injuries seen in the emergency department are related to jellyfish and stingray injuries. Jellyfish stings can cause intense discomfort and may require medical attention. Stingray stings can be more severe as the stinger can cause deep lacerations and lead to secondary infections. These injuries may require a medical inspection of the wound and need a prescription of antibiotics. Stepping on an oyster shell or falling into an oyster bed is another common cause of injury and also can cause deep lacerations and lead to infections.

Q5: What dangerous land animals should tourists look out for?

A: The Lowcountry does have several species of venomous snakes including rattlesnakes and copperheads. Bites by these snakes can be deadly. Alligators are another common sight in the Lowcountry, and these animals can be found in many smaller local bodies of water. Visitors should always be observant of the environment around them and use common sense in avoiding these animals if you spot one nearby. Most of these animals will seek to avoid conflict with humans unless they feel threatened by people looking to get too close. A photo opportunity is not worth it!

Q6: The sun is also powerful near the coast – especially if you’re near water. What advice would you give those about protecting their skin and eyes?

A: Direct and indirect sunlight (including on cloudy days) can cause significant burns to the skin and eyes. Sunscreen with a minimal SPF 30 is advised anytime you are out in the sun. The eyes are prone to injury from the sun. The additional light reflected off water can cause eye discomfort and potentially retinal burn injuries. Sunglasses that specifically block UV rays should always be used.

Q7: The Lowcountry is full of muddy marshes, wetlands, estuaries and swamps. What’s the best way to traverse these types of environments?

A: There are many local parks and safe places to enjoy the beauty of our local swamps and marshes. It is best to stay on marked paths when walking through such areas. Wear appropriate footwear and use common sense in avoiding treacherous terrain.

Q8: Are there any dangerous insects that inhabit the area?

A: Mosquitoes are a year-round presence in the Lowcountry along with other biting insects. Bites from these insects can cause itching and sometimes more uncomfortable skin reactions. A safe commercial insect repellant is advised when outdoors. South Carolina is home to black widow spiders, but the most common spiders that visitors would encounter do not pose a significant threat. Cockroaches (or palmetto bugs) are a common site in the Lowcountry and are generally harmless.

Q9: What resource do you recommend people read before they visit the area?

A: The Charleston County Parks and Recreation is a valuable website for safety tips. Their page on water safety includes tips on many of the topics visitors will want to know about.

Q10: If I need medical care, where can I get it?

A: Roper St. Francis Healthcare offers many local locations for urgent and emergency needs. See a map of all of our locations or navigate to one of our four Express Care locations – an excellent resource for most sunburns and minor injuries such as superficial cuts. They also can assist with minor illnesses such as coughs and colds.

You should always go directly to the emergency room if you have a more severe injury or illness related to your outdoor activities. Seek emergency care or call 911 if you or a family member experience concerning symptoms (such as chest pain or shortness of breath), acute illness or exacerbation of a chronic medical condition. You can also get assistance from the local poison control center no matter where you are located in the United States by calling 1(800)-222-1222. If you or a family member have been exposed to or ingested a potentially dangerous chemical, a poison control specialist can give you immediate recommendations or advise you to seek higher level medical care.

Safe travels and we hope you enjoy the Lowcountry responsibly.