Florida's Safe Beaches
Florida Has the Best Beaches in the World
The Sunshine State has more than 8,426 miles of tidal shoreline, second
only to Alaska. Sandy beaches account for over 1,350 miles of Florida
coastline. From its Emerald Coast, with sugar-white beaches and rolling
sand dunes, to the shell-lined sands along Sanibel Island, Floridas
beaches rein supreme. Forty-three beaches in Florida are certified Blue
Wave Beaches by the Clean Beaches Council because of their high ratings
in cleanliness, safety, and warning systems. Three out of the 10 beaches
on Dr. Beachs 2005s Americas Top 10 Beaches are located on
Floridas amazing coasts. You cant go wrong when picking the right
beach in Florida. These sensational shores not only appeal to the eye,
but also make huge splashes for beach goers, young and old. So wherever
you are in Florida, remember youre never more than 60 miles from the
Making Memories, Staying Safe
Swimmers in the ocean have entered an amazing habitat filled with
wildlife. Every time you swim at Florida beaches, you are a visitor in
this ocean world. We are wise to understand our undersea neighbors. To
make sure your beach experience is enjoyable, here is a snapshot of what
it takes to stay safe.
Swimming, one of the most popular activities in the country,
is a fun, active, and healthy way to spend leisure time. Every year,
millions of people visit recreational water sites, such as swimming
pools, water parks, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, or the ocean.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) encourages all parents and child
care givers to be more careful in their everyday responsibilities
including swimming. DOH supports the work of Safe Kids Florida, a member
of Safe Kids Worldwide and supports the following tips:
CHILDREN ALONE NEAR WATER.
never to run, push, or jump on others near water.
Learn infant and
always wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.
tubes and water wings are not safety devices.
Teach children to
swim after age 4.
children swim within designated swimming areas of rivers, lakes and
Web sites for more information on Safe Swimming include:
Healthy Swimming website
Florida Rip Currents
NOAA Rip Current Information
Healthy Beaches: Water Quality
The water at most beaches is safe for swimming, most of the time. The
Healthy Beaches Program at FDOH monitors water quality at beaches in 34
coastal Florida counties every week. They ensure public access to
information about the quality of their beach water. In addition, the
Program is working with environmental officials to .encourage use of
faster tests to give residents and visitors the most current information
about water quality.
Web sites for more information about water quality:
Beach Water Quality Program
Fl. Dept. of
Environmental Protection Coastal Management Program
Florida Surfrider Foundation
Florida Red Tides
Floridas stunning beaches are part of an amazing ecosystem. Nature is
alive and abundant both on the beach and in the ocean waters. Algae that
makes up red tide live naturally in waters across the world. When a
bloom occurs, it can be irritating to some people. These happen
throughout the world.
In Florida, red tide is caused by microscopic algae (plant-like
microorganism) called Karenia brevis or K. brevis. Red tide blooms can
last days, weeks or months and can also change daily due to wind
conditions. Onshore winds normally bring it near the shore and offshore
winds drive it out to sea.
The organism produces a chemical that can affect fish, birds, mammals
and other animals. Some people may also experience throat irritation and
coughing while visiting beaches during a Florida red tide outbreak. Most
people can swim in red tide but it may cause skin irritation and burning
eyes in very sensitive people. If your skin is easily irritated, avoid
red tide water. If you experience irritation, get out and thoroughly
wash off with fresh water. Swimming near dead fish should also be
Other things to Know about Florida Red Tide:
Symptoms from breathing red tide toxins are normally coughing,
sneezing and teary eyes. These are usually temporary when red tide
toxins are in the air. If you have symptoms, leave the beach and seek
Commercial seafood found in restaurants and grocery stores is safe
because it comes from red tide free water and is monitored by the
government for safety.
Recreational fisherman must be careful; do not eat mollusks (clams,
oysters, whelks) taken from water with red tide, as they contain toxins
that cause a food poisoning called NSP (Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning).
Finfish, however, that is caught live and healthy can be eaten if
Use common sense! Harvesting distressed or dead animals is not advised
under any circumstances. Edible parts (muscle) of other animals commonly
called shellfish (crabs, shrimp and lobsters), are not affected by the
red tide organisms and can be eaten. Do not eat the tamale (green stuff, hepatopancreas) found inside lobsters and crabs.
For health information call the
Florida Department of Health Aquatic Toxins
Toll free Hotline at
It is staffed 24/7 by medical professionals
Web sites for more information about Florida Red Tide include:
FDOH Aquatic Toxins Program
Florida FWC Research Institute
Mote Marine Laboratory
Solutions to Avoid
Red Tide Organization
Other Marine Life
Florida's water environment is a major draw for visitors. Frolicking
in and near water is a pleasant past time. Floridas oceans are also
home to many creatures. Most are very harmless but some have the ability
to sting and bite. Some of these stinging creatures that live in our
waters include Portuguese Man-of-War, jellyfish, fire corals, stingrays,
catfish, and sea urchins. It is important to recognize these animals and
avoid contact. In most instances, the stings or bites do not result in
harm to people but in some situations, the injury can be painful.
Sensitive individuals can experience serious conditions.
Web sites for more information about these marine creatures include:
Florida Poison Information Center
Broward County Hospital
Health Bank Information
Floridas beaches are sunny and beautiful places to linger. Its
important for beach goers to remember though, that the ocean is a
natural environment; home to many creatures including sharks. Sharks are
a natural part of the aquatic ecosystem in coastal Florida. Every year,
while millions of residents and visitors enjoy Floridas beaches, shark
attack incidents are extremely rare. In most cases, they are a result of
mistaken identity. Sharks are searching for food, not to attack humans.
If swimmers are in cloudy or murky water that contains a high
concentration of bait fish, then chances increase that a shark will
mistake swimmers for fish. Every year, millions of tourists and
residents visit Floridas beaches and waterways, and these beaches and
waterways will more than likely contain sharks. However, shark attacks
are very rare, with less than one fatality a year on average in Florida.
The chances of having an interaction with a shark can be reduced if one
heeds the following advice:
Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a
Do not wander too far from shore --- this isolates an individual and
additionally places one far away from assistance.
Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks
are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if
menstruating --- a shark's olfactory ability is acute.
Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because the reflected light
resembles the sheen of fish scales.
Avoid waters with sewage and those being used by sport or commercial
fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding
activity. Diving seabirds are good signs of such action.
Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks --- both
often eat the same food items.
Use extra caution when waters are murky and
bright colored clothing --- sharks see contrast particularly well.
Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water
because of their erratic movements.
Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near
steep drop-offs - these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
Use caution when swimming in cloudy water,
Leave the water if large schools of bait fish are present, and
Limit splashing activity, which sharks can mistake for fish.
Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate
the water if sharks are seen while there.
And, of course, do not harass
a shark if you see one!
Web sites for more information about Florida sharks include
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
Mote Marine Laboratory
University of Florida
Alligators in Florida
Alligators are an important part of Florida's heritage and play an
important role in the ecology of our state's wetlands. A better
understanding of these facts and a broader knowledge of alligator
behavior will help ensure that humans and alligators can continue to
Alligators have inhabited Florida's marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes
for many centuries. Meanwhile, in recent years, Florida has experienced
tremendous human population growth and in tourism. The increasing
numbers of people living and recreating near water have led to a steady
rise in the number of alligator-related complaints. Although the
majority of these complaints relate to alligators occurring in locations
where they simply are not wanted, a very small number tragically involve
attacks on humans.
Web sites for more information alligators include:
Living with Alligators
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's Gator Facts
Tanning and Skin Protection
Almost everyone on the beach can relate to the feel-good experience
of sun bathing. However, getting too much sun can result in unpleasant
sunburn. Florida Department of Health (FDOH) urges citizens and visitors
in Florida to protect against sunburn caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays
and practice smart tanning procedures. Since tanning happens over time,
you should limit exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning devices to
avoid injury. To avoid overexposure, FDOH recommends the following smart
Apply a generous amount of sunscreen before going outdoors. Apply it
early and often.
Lengthen your tanning times over several days and weeks, whether you
are outdoors in the sun, or using a tanning device indoors.
Protect your lips by using lip balm that blocks UV light.
Whether indoors or outdoors, keep skin moist by using aloe vera gel or
moisturizer to avoid sunburn and sooth your skin.
Wear protective eyewear that has been approved by the Food and Drug
Web sites for more information about Sun Protection include:
FDOH Tanning Program
Your Cover" Program
Florida "Beach Packing Tips"
Beat the Heat
Floridas year round warm temperature draws visitors from around the
US and the world. However, Florida's climate, especially in the summer
months can be hot and humid. Staying cool and making simple changes in
your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help
you remain safe and healthy. Your best defense against heat-related
illness is prevention. Tips to help beat the heat include:
NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS IN A PARKED CAR: The temperature can
raise to 135 degrees in less than ten minutes, which can cause death to
children or pets. If you see a child or pet left unattended in a parked
car, you should call 9-1-1 and alert authorities.
Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or
rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should
stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat
and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal
Pay attention to the foods you eat. Foods (like proteins) that
increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
Drink plenty of water or other nonalcoholic fluids. Your body needs
water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel
thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver
disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets, or (3) have a problem with
fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their
consumption of fluids.
Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician. Persons on
salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing
their salt intake.
Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes
and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot
afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot
weather) in an air
conditioned environment affords some protection.
Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that
much more difficult.
Web sites for more information about ways to keep cool include:
Florida Heat Wave
Being outdoors in Florida is a natural and very popular past time. Warm
breezes, sunny days and tropical nights are irresistible to our
visitors. While enjoying the outdoors, recognize that there maybe
insects sharing your space.
Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes enjoy Floridas tropical climate. Since some
mosquitoes can carry illnesses including encephalitis and the West Nile
Virus, and to reduce annoyance from these biting insects, many
communities have extensive mosquito control programs. However, in
natural environments, these insects are a normal part of the ecosystem.
However, it is important for Floridas residents and visitors to protect
themselves against mosquito-borne diseases.
DOH advises the public to remain diligent in their protecting themselves
from mosquito bites by following the 5 Ds, which include:
Dusk and Dawn Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are seeking
blood. For many species, this is during the dusk and dawn hours
Dress Wear clothing that covers most of your skin.
DEET When the potential exists for exposure to mosquitoes,
repellents containing DEET
(N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, or N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) are
recommended. Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are other repellent
options. Always follow label instructions carefully.
Drainage Check around your home to rid the area of standing water,
which is where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.
Ticks: Florida has many beautiful upland hiking trails, natural pathways
in the coastal areas and beautiful wooded parks and open areas. While
enjoying these environments, its important to take precautions against
biting insects, including ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. Limiting
exposure to ticks reduces the likelihood of infection. In persons
exposed to tick-infested habitats, prompt careful inspection and removal
of crawling or attached ticks is an important method of preventing
Prevention measures include:
Wear light-colored clothing -- this will allow you to see ticks that
are crawling on your clothing. Tuck your pants legs into your socks so
that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pant legs.
Apply repellants to discourage tick attachment. Repellents containing Permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing, and will last for
several days. Repellents containing DEET (n, n-diethyl-m-toluamide) can
be applied to the skin, but will last only a few hours before
reapplication is necessary. Use DEET with caution on children because
adverse reactions have been reported. Always follow label instructions
Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas
by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length
mirror to view all parts of your body. Remove any tick you find on your
Africanized Honey Bees (AHB): We live with risks of insect bites in our
daily lives. We can also live with the Africanized hybridized honey bee
population. Honey bees are critical to agriculture through pollination
of crops, and therefore must be protected.
The best advice is to avoid all bees, just as you would any stinging
insect - scorpion or spider - or a poisonous snake. In the case of bees,
awareness is important. Never climb a large tree or kick a felled tree
or stump. Do not roll a large rock or log until checking if foraging
bees are entering and leaving the area. When hiking in the country, keep
an escape route in mind at all times.
To get away from a stinging bee, the best thing to do is RUN. Bees tend
to sting the face and head, so try to cover your head with a jacket or
shirt while running and without blocking your vision. Never stand still
or get yourself boxed into a place outdoors where you cannot escape the
attacking bees. SEEK SHELTER. Run for an enclosed building or vehicle.
DO NOT LOCK THE DOORS! Others may be trying to escape the bees as well.
Bees that do get inside usually become disoriented and go to the light
at the windows.
Web sites for more information about bothersome insects include:
DOH Arbovirus Program
Florida Department of
Department of Agriculture African Honey Bee Information
Fresh Florida Seafood: Eat Healthy, Eat Smart
Eating Fish: DOH, the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FFWCC) work together to make sure fish from Florida waters
are safe to eat. In most instances FFWCC determines what fish species
should be sampled and collects those samples. DEP checks for chemicals
in fish tissue. DOH looks at the information to make sure that consuming
certain fish and issues fish are safe to eat. When necessary,
consumption advisories are issued.
Web sites for more information about Fin Fish include:
Eating Other Seafood: In areas with Florida red tides, recreational
fishermen must be careful. Do not eat mollusks (clams, oysters, whelks,
snails) taken from water with red tide, as they contain toxins that
cause a food poisoning called NSP (Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning).
Finfish caught live and healthy can be eaten if filleted. Use common
sense! Harvesting distressed or dead animals is not advised under any
circumstances. Edible parts of other animals commonly called crustacean
shellfish (crabs, shrimp and lobsters), are not affected by the red tide
organisms and can be eaten. But do not eat the tamale (green stuff,
hepatopancreas). Scallops can also be eaten as long as you only eat the
muscle of the scallop. Do not eat whole animals.
Eating Raw Oysters: DOH reminds high risk individuals about the risk of
eating raw oysters. Those most at-risk for developing serious illness
from the natural occurring bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, include heavy
drinkers with liver damage and people with certain health conditions
such as liver disease, diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any
illness or treatment that weakens the immune system. At-risk individuals
are more likely to become extremely ill or die. People in these
high-risk groups are also at risk of illness if they have wounds or cuts
and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be
present. Thoroughly cooking oysters, either by frying, stewing or
roasting, eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat. Consuming
raw oysters that have undergone a post-harvest treatment process to
eliminate the bacteria can also reduce the risk of illness. Healthy
persons eating raw oysters are less susceptible to becoming ill.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS)
Shellfish Environmental Assessment Section (SEAS) in the Bureau of
Aquaculture Environmental Services is responsible for classifying and
managing Florida shellfish harvesting areas. The goal of shellfish
harvesting area classification and management is to provide maximum
utilization of shellfish resources and to reduce the risk of
Web sites for more information about shellfish and where it is safe to
harvest shellfish include:
DOH Food and Waterborne Disease Program
DOACS Shellfish Program