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Stay safe on beaches during the oil spill

The oil spill is a cause for concern for those with vacation plans on the Gulf Coast.

The following Red Cross guidelines are from the Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety and Preparedness (ACFASP), a Red Cross group of experts.

Know Before You Go
Any beach trip involves possible hazards, including rip currents, stormy weather and high concentrations of animals such as jellyfish and sharks. The oil spill simply adds another potential hazard to that list.

If you're planning to go to a beach or water area possibly affected by the oil spill, consult local and state resources to see if the area is experiencing contamination. You can also read or listen to information from local media broadcasts or Web sites.


Beach Safety
Stay out of closed or contaminated areas. Whenever possible, stay in swimming areas supervised by trained lifeguards.

If you see tar balls or other possible oil products on the beach, notify authorities and avoid direct physical contact with the substance. In most cases it's appropriate to use non-emergency contact numbers instead of dialing 911.

Don't try to rescue a contaminated animal unless you're specially trained and have adequate protective gear. Notify authorities if you see any animals in distress.

If you notice possible oil in the water, leave the water immediately.

Contact with Oil Products — What to Do
Leave the contaminated environment and wash yourself thoroughly with fresh water and soap, a mild detergent or a product designed to remove oil or grease from skin. Water alone isn't enough. Remove and place contaminated clothing and swim or dive gear into plastic bags and wash them thoroughly with fresh water and detergent. Don't launder contaminated clothing with other clothing. Throw away anything you can't get clean.

Health Issues
In many cases, leaving the area and removing all traces of contamination will resolve mild health symptoms.

Seek urgent medical attention if you experience acute shortness of breath, significant coughing, facial or throat swelling, nausea or vomiting, or a significant rash after being exposed to oil products. Inform medical personnel of any possible exposure to oil products.

Infants, children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues or open wounds are more likely to suffer medical problems due to exposure to oil products. It's best that they stay out of any possibly contaminated areas.