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Last Updated: Monday August 10 2009 11:00 GMT

Keeping safe in the sea

Sea safety expert Kelly Keating

Tips for staying safe in the sea

Playing in the sea can be loads of fun, especially on a really hot day!

But it's important to stay safe. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has top tips for making sure you enjoy your time in the sea safely.

Before you go
  • Find out about the beach you're going to before you visit
  • Check tide times
  • Make sure there will be lifeguards

When you're there
  • Swim between the red and yellow flags, where the lifeguards can see you
  • Never swim on your own
  • Know your beach safety flags

  • Click here to find out more about the beach flags
  • Never use inflatables in strong winds or rough seas
  • Read and obey local hazard signs

What to do if things do go wrong
  • If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help
  • If you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

Eating and swimming

You often hear that you shouldn't go swimming after eating. If it's just a snack or an ice cream then don't worry too much about taking a dip. But if you've been munching a big meal, then the RNLI say you shouldn't go for a swim for at least an hour afterwards.

Using inflatables

Inflatable toys are best kept for use in swimming pools, not the sea, as they are lightweight and can easily be swept out away from the shore. If you do use them at the beach, they should only be used between the red and yellow flags, and never taken out in big waves or strong winds. Children using inflatables should be supervised by an adult at all times.

Body boarding

When buying a body board, always purchase a leash and flippers and stay between the red and yellow flags. Never abandon your board as it will keep you afloat. If in trouble, signal for help by waving your arm and shouting for help.

Rip currents

Rips are strong currents running out to sea. They are a problem particularly for surfers, swimmers and body boarders, as they can quickly and easily drag you out to sea, far beyond your depth.

If you get caught in a rip current:

  • Stay calm - don't panic
  • If you can stand, wade, don't swim
  • Keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float
  • Raise your hand and shout for help
  • Never try to swim directly against the rip or you'll get exhausted
  • Try to swim parallel to be beach until free of the rip, then make for shore
  • If you see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

Beach safety flags
Beach safety flags
Windsock - if one of these if on the beach and is blowing around it means it's too windy to use inflatables in the sea
Red and yellow - shows where the life-guards patrol. It is the safest place for you to go into the sea
Black and white - this is an area of the sea set aside for watersports like windsurfing and surfing. You MUST NOT swim in it.
Red - this means danger. NEVER go into the sea where this flag is flying

Click here to go back to the sea safety tips

Guide to Summer Safety