Safety in the Sun and Sea

France has a long coastline and many beautiful beaches and swimming locations; make sure you know how to stay safe...

Being aware of the dangers related to swimming in the sea can help to avoid accidents. Children must be supervised at all times. Swim where other people are swimming or where flags indicate a safe area. Most frequent dangers include:

  • Strong water currents
  • Big waves caused by wind movements. Waves normally move from sea to land during the day and from land to sea at the night

Supervised beaches in France have a system of coloured flags to let the public know about the swimming conditions. The code is:

Safety in the Water
Green Bathing supervision
Orange Swimming dangerous but under supervision
Red Swimming Forbidden
Water Quality
Blue Good, clean water
Yellow Water polluted


In some cases - when the temperature difference between the water and the air is great - jumping quickly into the sea can cause hypothermia. The symptoms include shivering, dizziness and sight problems, a ringing sound in the ears, a sudden sensation of fever, itching, cramp, and head ache.

If this happens, get out of the water quickly, dry off, wrap up in clothes or dry towels and rest in the shade until the symptoms pass.


Sunstroke can occur if exposed to the sun and the heat for too long. Children are particularly sensitive. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, stiff neck, fever. In a severe case, vomiting and unconsciousness can occur. Treatment involves rehydration with water and salts, and cooling the body gently. Lie down in a well ventilated place in the shade, ideally covered by a damp sheet, drink water without ice and take an aspirin.

Staying out of the sun during the heat of the day (12:00-15:00), wearing a hat and drinking water regularly can prevent sunstroke.

Sandbars and shoals

Though these "pools" of water, normally warmer than in the rest of the sea, might seem very inviting, they can be extremely dangerous. Swimming becomes difficult as the water pressure can be great and the currents can drag a swimmer out to sea. If this happens, avoid panicking and do not try to swim against the current. Float. The waves will take a swimmer back to shore.

  • Wikipedia have more information
  • Sauvmer provide easy-to-understand images and an explanation in French


If stung by a jellyfish, rinse the sting with sea water, not fresh water. Put sand on the sting and rub with something rigid (such as a credit card). If stung in the face, rinse the eyes immediately and contact a doctor.

Mont St-Michel Tides

The tidal waters of Mont St-Michel off the Manche coastline in Brittany can be very dangerous with up to 15 metres of difference between high and low tides representing about 15 Km of difference between the high and low water mark. Tides move fast and can trap anyone walking across the flats.

Further Information