First Aid for the beach

Gippsland’s stunning beaches, lakes, rivers and pools are an annual drawcard for thousands of Australian holiday makers, but knowing some basic first aid can help us assist in the event of drowning or heatstroke.

“People often underestimate the severity of heatstroke which can be life threatening”, said Red Cross National First Aid, Health and Safety Advisor, Dan Coad.

“The body loses the ability to cool itself so that is where we need to provide assistance,” he added.

Move the person to  cooler place, loosen tight clothing, apply cool wet cloths or towels, fan the person with anything available such as a newspaper or magazine and give small amounts of cool water, ensuring they sip it slowly.

When it comes to safe beach practices, Dan advised that we should always swim between the red and yellow flags, and never swim at unpatrolled beaches and never swim alone.

“We should be aware of our limitations and test our skills and fitness in a safe environment, such as in a public pool prior to swimming at the beach, just to make sure we are physically capable of swimming in the surf.

“Obviously, we should refrain from drinking alcohol before swimming and never swim at night.  Alcohol and water don’t mix,” Dan said.

Let your children know that they are not to enter the water without an adult present, and if possible speak to a local before entering the water to see if there is anything you should know about rips, deep holes or sandbars.

“If someone appears to be drowning, do not enter the water unless you are specifically trained to perform water rescues.  If you are on your own, always call 000 first to ensure help can be sent as soon as possible,” Dan said.

“If the person is breathing, tilt their head back and place them on their side in the recovery position.  It is important to tilt the head back as it moves the tongue out of the way.

“If the person is not breathing, immediately commence rescue breaths and chest compressions, with 30 compressions on their chest and two steady breaths into their mouth or nose, ensuring you have a suitable seal and have closed the other opening.

“For children under 12 months old, seal your mouth around both their nose and mouth.  Continue this cycle of 30 chest compressions and two steady breaths until help arrives.

“If you do not want to give mouth to mouth, hands only chest compressions should still be administered until help arrives, as this is the most important way to get blood pumping and oxygen flowing to the brain,” he said.

Dan explained that a common mistake is to not administer compressions or breaths for fear of using the incorrect method, when in fact any effort is better than no effort at all.

To find out more basic life support, download a Red Cross First Aid mobile app through Google Play or the App Store.  Always take a Red Cross first aid kit in the car or caravan and think about booking into a Red Cross first aid training course in 2014.

To purchase a Red Cross first aid kit, or to book your first aid training course for 2014, go online to or call 1300 367 428.


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