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Beware the Undertow

A quick primer on what to do if caught in the ocean current

A day at the beach can be refreshing -- or it can be dangerous. You've probably seen news reports of people being swept away by currents while enjoying a dip in the ocean.

It's important you know what to do if you're ever caught in that nasty current called the undertow, which drags you away from shore. The North Broward (Fla.) Hospital District has some tips:

  • If you feel the pull of the current, never swim toward shore. You'll only tire yourself. Instead, swim parallel to shore till you get out of the undertow, which is usually a few hundred feet wide at most. Once free, swim to shore.
  • If you can't break free, let the current pull you out. Eventually, it will dissipate and you can head back to the beach.
  • And, above all, only swim when lifeguards are on duty.
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