Red Tide 101: How to prep for what’s ahead

A child and his family at the beach.

As we approach the warmer months, we look forward to spending time at the beach, soaking up the sun, and taking a refreshing dip in the ocean. However, we must be aware of the potential dangers of red tide. Here are some precautions you can take when traveling to the beach and how to monitor the red tide.

What is Red Tide?

Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by algae called Karenia brevis. These algae produce toxins that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation in humans and can also be fatal to marine life. Red tide is identifiable by the discoloration of the water, which can range from a reddish-brown to a yellow-green color.

If you’re planning a trip to the beach, be sure to monitor the red tide conditions before you go. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) maintains a statewide red tide status map on its website. It is updated regularly with information on the latest red tide conditions. When high levels of red tide are detected, the FWC issues warnings to the public to avoid swimming in affected areas. Over the past month, you may have observed an increase in the frequency of warnings about red tide in the news, particularly during spring break.


Once you arrive at the beach, there are several precautions you can take to protect yourself from the effects of red tide. If you come across any indications of red tide, such as discolored water or dead fish on the shore, it is best that you refrain from swimming in the area. Should you choose to swim anyway, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible afterward to remove any toxins that may have encountered your skin.

If you experience respiratory problems or skin irritation at the beach, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of red tide exposure can include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy or burning eyes.

Take Action

It is also essential to assist in endeavors that strive to reduce and alleviate the consequences of red tide. You can support organizations that research red tide, advocate for policies that reduce nutrient pollution (which can contribute to red tide), and properly dispose of hazardous waste to prevent it from entering the ocean.

Red tide remains a significant concern for Florida’s coastal communities. The frequency and intensity of red tide outbreaks have increased in recent years. By doing our part in monitoring red tide conditions, taking precautions, and supporting efforts to prevent and mitigate the effects of red tide, we can enjoy the beauty of the ocean while also protecting ourselves and the environment.


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Written by Alexis George

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