People are getting impaled by beach umbrellas — here's what you need to know

A beach umbrella doesn’t seem like a dangerous projectile, but it can be. (Photo: Getty Images)
A beach umbrella doesn’t seem like a dangerous projectile, but it can be. (Photo: Getty Images)

A day at the beach turned out to be anything but carefree for one woman in Ocean City, Md., who was pierced in the chest by a beach umbrella on Sunday afternoon.

The 46-year-old woman, who has not been publicly identified, was hit by a rental umbrella that was left unattended, police told WMDT. Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin told the news station that first responders and fellow beachgoers helped hold the umbrella so it wouldn’t blow around and injure her further. When local firefighters arrived on the scene, they cut the wooden pole but left a small piece under the woman’s skin because they were worried about causing more damage.

The woman was airlifted to a local hospital, where doctors will decide the best way to remove the rest of the pole. According to Arbin, the woman’s condition isn’t known at this time but her injuries were not life-threatening.

The news comes just a week after a beach umbrella impaled the ankle of a 67-year-old woman in New Jersey. Bystander Ricky Zepeda told NJ Advance Media that he saw an umbrella pass by him after a random gust of wind. “I heard someone scream ‘My leg, my leg,’ and I looked over and I could see what happened,” he said. One of the aluminum frame ribs that support the top of the umbrella went through one side of Margaret Reynolds’s lower leg and came out the other side, Zepeda said. A local fire chief used cable cutters to free Reynolds, and she was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was listed in good condition.

These stories aren’t a fluke: Accidents like these happen every summer, and they’re often serious and sometimes fatal. One woman died in 2016 after being struck in the torso by a beach umbrella in Virginia Beach, Va.

If you happen to witness someone being impaled by a beach umbrella, there are a few things you can do to help, Susan Besser, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. First, make sure they are safe and stable, meaning they’re alert, awake, and not bleeding profusely, she says. Then call for help.

Where the person was injured and how far the umbrella pole went into them matters, Besser says, pointing out that if someone was superficially injured, there’s less potential harm than with a deep wound.

While it may be tempting to remove the umbrella, it’s a good idea to leave it in place, Besser says. “It may reduce the bleeding if a blood vessel was pierced,” she says. “Also, if the lung was pierced, leaving the umbrella in acts as a ‘stopper’ to keep the lung from deflating and letting air escape.”

If you can, try to keep the victim from moving around a lot, Besser says. It’s OK to let them sit or lie down, but then try to make them stay put until help arrives.

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