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Vacations on the beach- Safety & Health Concerns

Vacations on the beach- Safety & Health Concerns

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Safety is a non-negligible factor when it comes to enjoying the vacations without any spoilers. Most of the popular beaches in France have lifeguards, lifesaving and first-aid equipments during the 'bathing' season. If it is a good beach, usually, there is a map of the beach indicating different facilities such as drinking water, toilets, showers, access and facilities provided for the physically disabled as well.



St Jean de Monts


Crédit photo : Ville de Saint-Jean-de-Monts


As per a French government website, each year, there are more than 500 deaths owing to drowning. Drowning can happen in sea, rivers, lakes, artificial lakes, ponds, swimming pools and canals. Swim/ bathe only in supervised and authorized areas. Swimming immediately after a heavy meal and intake of alcohol should be avoided as it may lead to drowsiness and/ or inability to remain alert. For accompanying children, it is always recommended to supervise and equip them with water wings. It is also a safe practice to stay closer to the beach when swimming and not stray too far away.


Hydrocution is another swimming safety hazard that can happen when there is a significant difference between temperature of the body and the water. Body experiences a temperature shock when it is immersed too quickly in to cold or relatively cold water. This may lead to fainting in water and ultimately drowning if unnoticed. The best way to avoid hydrocution is to enter the water gradually so that the body gets used to the difference in temperature.


Sun strokes are also a common occurrence at the beaches. Sun screens suited to one's skin type and sensitivity offer a protective barrier*. It is recommended to use the sunscreen half an hour before the exposure to the sun. The sun rays are more intense between 11 AM and 4 PM. Avoid a direct exposure during this time. Wear hat or cap and UV filtering sunglasses. Excessive exposure to sun can also lead to dehydration. Drink adequate quantities of water.


Usually, it is prohibited to carry domestic animals/ pets to the beaches unless otherwise stated for a particular beach. When in doubt, ask the beach personnel. Use dustbins on the beaches to throw the garbage- there may be separate bins for glass bottles, recyclable material (plastic, paper, packagings) and biodegradable material depending on the beach. Respecting the label of the bins is to respect the environment. Also, any untended junk may lead to the uncleanliness of the beach. If the sand is not proper, in certain individuals, it may lead to dermatological allergies. Use a beach towel or mat while sitting/ lying down on the beach.


While most of the beaches in metropolitan France are considerably safe, some tropical beaches in overseas France such as in Martinique, Guadelope, Guinea, Reunion etc. may have presence of offensive or venomous species such as rays, anemones, barracuda, snails, jellyfish, anemone, coral etc. These may be found in tide pools, shallow or deep water off shore, bay areas, reef or rocky areas on or around the shore. Inform yourself of the safety precautions issued by competent authorities. In case of an emergency, call the life guards or consult a doctor.


In the event of an accident, call the lifeguard services at the beach or one of the following emergency numbers
Fire firefighters: 18
Emergency Rescue: 15
European Emergency Number: 112


For most of the communes with popular beaches, having vacationers over is good for local commerce and tourism. In turn, they provide free-to-use amenities and services with a nominal charge in order to maintain comfort and hygiene standards up to date. It is only fair to respect the local way of living by carefully following the safety and general use instructions displayed at various places.


Ecolabel 'Pavillon Bleu' or 'The Blue Flag'


Some of the beaches and marinas prominently display the Pavillon Bleu or the Blue Flag. Pavillon Blue is an ecolabel awarded through a strict criterion dealing with bathing water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services of the candidate communes, beaches and marinas. As of Summer 2010, more than 341 beaches and 72 marinas in metropolitan and overseas territories of France enjoy the 'Pavillon bleu' label which is considered a symbol of the sustainable quality of environment and has strong tourist connotations. At any site with the 'Pavillon Bleu' label, you can expect information concerning four areas- safety and services, bathing water quality, environmental information and environmental services.
 Pavillon Bleu


Pavillon Bleu was created in 1985 by the French office of the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe, FEEE, meant for coastal municipalities for their treatment of sewage and bathing water qualities. in 1987, the 'European Year of Environment', the label was adopted by the European community for environmental management of coastal areas such as waste management, coastal planning and protection. Beaches and marinas were included to become eligible for the label in addition to coastal municipalities. In the same year, 244 beaches and 208 marinas from 10 countries were awarded the Blue Flag.


Since then, each year, the label is awarded to those communes and leisure spots that manage a quality environment in a durable fashion. The FEE is working with the United Nations program for the environment and with the World Tourism Organisation for the extension of 'Pavillon Bleu' label to other sites in the world. The Pavillon Bleu has decorated more than 3450 beaches and leisure spots in 41 countries in Europe, Africa, American and Pacific.


For more information, consult

Website of Pavillon Bleu (in French)
Website of the Blue Flag
Website of Foundation of Environmental Education in Europe


*Sunscreens are available as lotions, creams or gels. A sunscreen's 'strength' is determined by its SPF or Sun protection factor. Higher the SPF, better the protection the sunscreen offers.