The Scary Bacteria You Need to Steer Clear of at the Beach This Summer

mom and toddler at the beachUsually, the scary villain everyone warns you to look out for in the summer months is skin cancer. (Or the bowl of potato salad that's been left out in the sun all afternoon.) But now, there's a new danger lurking at a beach near you this summer!


And this time, it's IN the water, just waiting to infect you and your fam and make you all sick. Nope, it's not sharks. That's another story. It's harmful bacteria that can cause everything from diarrhea and skin rashes to ulcers, amputation, and even death.

We know. Way to kill the summer mood.

Not 1, not 2, but 23 Texas beaches are reporting high levels of Enterococci bacteria. It's usually found in fecal matter. But recent flooding has dumped (excuse the pun) the contents of local sewage tanks into the Gulf.

And it's not just the Lone Star state where you need to be cautious.

Some Florida beaches are also haboring a flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus. We'd say that sounds like an awesome name of a movie villain -- except for the fact that it's already killed two people this summer.

So, how worried should you be?

More from The Stir: Woman Goes Blind in 1 Eye After Contracting Flesh-Eating Bacteria From Mud (VIDEO)

According to the Galveston County Health District, not TOO much. The Enterococci advisories are only expected to last a few days and actually don't affect 92 percent of Galveston's beaches.

As for Vibrio? They're apparently naturally found in warm coastal seawater around the world, and infections are pretty rare.

"They're both nasty bacteria, but anyone healthy may do just fine if exposed to them," assures Ashanti W. Woods, MD, FAAP, attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. "However, you do want to minimize your exposure."

Avoid beaches and local bodies of water after a prolonged rain period or flood, says Woods. "Give water time to settle and dilute."

Investing in water shoes -- which provide an extra barrier between you and the grody bacteria -- is a good idea, too.

And if you have a weakened immune system -- for instance, you have cancer, liver disease, GI issues, diabetes, or any health condition that's causing your immune system to not be at 100 percent, THEN you need to be super-careful when you hit the beach.

Always check for local health advisories AND with your doctor before you go. Once there, don't expose any cuts or open sores to the water. If you accidentally do, wash the area ASAP with soap and water. And if you start running a fever or see redness or swelling at the site, get to your doctor stat.

If the infection's caught early enough, antibiotics will usually clear it up. It's when you wait (and wait) for help that severe infections can arise.

Anyone up for a trip to the beach? Or would you feel safer having a nice, warm helping of potato salad?

What freaks you out most about the beach?

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