1. Learn to recognize the signs of a rip current. Typical indications include: a channel of choppy water; an area of water that’s a different color; a line of foam or seaweed that’s moving quickly out to sea; and fewer waves hitting the shore.
2. If you’re caught in a rip, don’t panic. “Panic is what drowns people, not the rip,” says Rob Brander, a professor at the University of New South Wales and rip-current expert. If you’re a strong swimmer, try and escape the current by swimming parallel to the beach. Swim towards whitewater, or where waves are breaking, which indicates a shallower area. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stay afloat, save your energy and signal for help.
3. Pay attention to warnings. Double red flags mean the beach is closed; a single red flag signals strong surf and currents. Jet ski vendors in Phuket reportedly pull up red flags, fearing bad business. In any event, if the sea looks rough, think twice before getting in.
4. Educate yourself about the weather and climate of the country you’re visiting. Know when the monsoon is. Also, Brander notes, “if a beach has good surfing, there will be rip currents as well.”
5. Don’t swim alone. Many beaches in Southeast Asia don’t have lifeguards, so it’s best to go out in a group in case you get into any danger.
6. Prevention is key when it comes to jellyfish stings. Wear protective clothing in waters where box jellyfish have bee sighted. Sure, a long-sleeved lycra stinger suit isn’t going to give you a killer tan, but it could save your life.
7. Keep vinegar handy. If you do get stung, pour vinegar on the wounds for at least 30 seconds. Vinegar prevents the remaining stinging cells from releasing their venom. Then get medical help as soon as possible.