The sun’s shining and there’s nothing better to do than spend a fun-filled family day at the beach soaking up the sun and wallowing in the cool blue waters of the sea. Despite being a relaxing and easy-going activity for the entire family, there are certain dangers and hazards around the ocean which can have serious consequences especially for children. So before you hit the beach, brush up on some safety tips and rules on how to keep your child safe at the beach to make sure that your family vacation is as safe as it is enjoyable.
Put on Sunscreen
We can’t help but talk about the dangers of too much sun exposure whenever we talk about vacationing at the beach. With regard to children, it is imperative that you protect your kid’s tender skin from the sun’s intense rays. Keep in mind that skin damage brought on by the sun accumulates over their lifetime, and much of this damage comes from exposure during childhood. So the more sun damage your kid has, the greater the risk of skin cancer later on.
That said, parents should definitely put sunscreen on their children whenever they hit the beach. In fact, experts recommend that children (as well as adults) put on sunscreen not just when going to the beach but whenever they go out of the house.
When choosing a sunscreen for children, choose one that is labeled ‘broad-spectrum’. These types of sunscreen protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Also, look for sunscreen which are formulated specially for children as this is more suitable for their young skin. A water-resistant sunscreen would also be nice.
Putting on sunscreen on your children before they start playing in the sand and water is a good thing. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is good enough.
Make it a point to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Consider doing so more frequently if your kid is playing in the water. Even if the sunscreen is labeled as water-resistant, it will still get washed off by the salty sea water and your kid’s sweat.
Wear Sun Protective Clothing
There are various sun protective clothing available for children nowadays. Most of these will be made from fabrics which are capable of protecting their skin from certain degrees of UV radiation.
Wear Sun Protective Accessories As Well
Aside from their skin, children also need to protect other parts of their bodies from the sun and the heat. For instance, it is a fact that sun exposure also damages the eyes, specifically the cornea. As mentioned earlier, sun damage is cumulative, and in this regard, sun exposure over time can lead to cataracts later in your kid’s life.
The best way to protect your kid’s eyes against sun damage is to wear sunglasses that provide UV protection. Let your kids pick their own pair. There are many options which are fun and come with multicolored frames or cartoon characters. Beach hats also provide additional protection for the eyes, as well as helps to protect your kid’s forehead from sunburn.
In addition, be sure to bring along a pair of water shoes for your kids and let them wear it. Sure, feeling the sand between your toes is part of the quintessential beach experience. But it can get really uncomfortable (and even painful) when the temperature rises.
Wear a Personal Flotation Device
Many parents are aware that their children should be wearing life jackets whenever they’re on a boat. While this is true, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be wearing a life jacket while they’re in or around the water even if they’re not on a boat.
If your kid is a weak swimmer or don’t know how to swim at all, have them wear a life jacket whenever they are near the water as this will help keep their heads above water. This make it easier for them to shout for help whenever they need it, and it also makes it easier for you and the lifeguard to see them.
Avoid Staying in the Sun on Certain hours
Aside from wearing sunscreen, another way to protect your children from the harmful effects of the sun is to let them stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest. The time may vary from place to place, but experts generally agree that this is between 10 am up to 2 pm. Even on overcast and cloudy days, you should still consider getting the kids into the shade during these hours.
But wouldn’t that ruin their day at the beach? Not necessarily so since there are plenty of things you can do at the beach aside from wading and playing in the water. For instance, you can try some board games or have some snacks. And if they really want to play in the sun during these hours, then you’ll have to make sure that they apply and reapply sunscreen more often than usual to avoid sunburn and skin damage.
Swim with a Buddy
Make it a rule to never let your child swim alone even if he or she is a confident swimmer. Make sure there is always another competent swimmer or adult who can watch them. If not, encourage them to swim with a buddy and watch out for each other when they’re swimming or playing along the water’s edge.
Kids who are not yet experienced swimmers need constant touch supervision when they’re playing at the beach. That means you (or another responsible adult) should stay in the water with your child at all times, within touching distance, giving him or her 100 percent of your attention. Once your child has learned to swim long distances and float on his back, you don’t necessarily need to be right next to them, but you should always keep them in sight, no matter how old they are. Kids of all ages can get stuck underwater, grow tired, or become panicked. And don’t assume you’ll hear your child yelling or splashing if he needs help like what you see in the movies. In real life, most kids and adults drown quietly and quickly.
Sign Up Your Child for Swimming Lessons
If your child doesn’t know how to swim in a pool, then it is very likely that they won’t be able to swim in the ocean as well. And even if they are capable of swimming in the pool, remember that ocean swimming is different from swimming in a calm pool or lake because there’s always a strong surf to deal with.
So before running to the beach, consider letting your kid sing up for swimming lessons first. Accordingly, children aged four and up should be taught how to swim. Actually it is a better idea to teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swimming instructions as they age, probably due to embarrassment.
Still don’t let swimming lessons give you a false sense of security. Regardless of ability, all children need an adult at their side while in the water. Still, swimming skills can make a big difference by reducing the risk of drowning.
Don’t Rely on Inflatable Toys or Floaties
It is a common mistakes for parents to put too much faith in flotation devices, most of which were actually designed to be toys and not as life preservers. The only safe flotation device is a well-fitting Coast Guard–approved life jacket. If your child doesn’t know how to swim, it’s okay to let her use floatie toys, but only if you’re right there next to him or her in the water.
Also, avoid letting your little girl wear her favorite mermaid tails when swimming in the ocean. It may sound really exciting, but these toys can trap your child’s legs, preventing her from easily kicking her way to the surface from beneath the water.
Know the Weather and Water Conditions
Check the weather and wind conditions before you jump in the car and drive to the beach. Make sure the water is calm enough for safe family play. Aside from tuning in to the weather forecast, talk to a lifeguard for advice if you are unsure about anything as they will be able to tell you about conditions and any precautions you should take.
If the weather turns sour, then you should consider cancelling the trip altogether. Sure, your children will be disappointed, but you’d rather have them moping in bedrooms than injured in the hospital. Besides, the beach isn’t going anywhere and it will surely be there tomorrow.
It’s easy to forget to replenish with a drink of water especially when you’re all splashing in the waves and building sandcastles and just having a grand time. However, even a few hours of baking under the sun can cause some seriously uncool symptoms and may even lead to severe sickness like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. All these can all result from dehydration and extended exposure to high temperatures, so make sure to drink plenty of water.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include disorientation and dizziness, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, excessive sweating or lack of sweating, pale skin, swelling and rapid heartbeat.
If your child (or someone else you’re with) display any of these symptoms, get out of the sun and heat and bring them under your beach umbrella. Remove any unnecessary clothing, drink plenty of water, and take a cool bath or shower. If symptoms are on the severe side it’s best to call the attention of the lifeguard and seek medical attention.
Always Face the Sea
Even if your child can swim well, a wave that they’re not anticipating can knock them off their feet if their back is turned to the ocean, which can be very dangerous. Teach your children to always face the sea, even if they’re standing or playing in shallow water. This way, they have a visible warning of waves coming towards them at all times.
You should also always be facing the sea and watching your children as they play in the water. Never let your child out of sight at the beach since children can crawl or walk into the water very quickly.
Write Your Contact Number in Their Arm
If you’re visiting a crowded beach, there is a chance that your kid might get lost and separated from you amidst all the hive of activity. As a safety precaution, write your cellphone number in black permanent market on your child’s arm or clothes so that if they get lost, they can ask an adult nearby to phone you and let you know where they are. Make sure the pen you use is waterproof! You can let them wear a tag, but this may get in the way of their swimming or wading.
Arrange an Emergency Meeting Point
If your children are swimming and running around on the beach, it can be difficult for them to keep track of where you are. So as soon as you arrive on the beach, point out a specific landmark to them near where you’ll be sitting such as the lifeguard tower or a café on the beach and tell your child to wait there if they get lost.
Watch for Warning Flags
Different beaches have different colored flags with assigned meanings, so be sure to ask the lifeguard if you’re not sure what the flags signify. After that, be sure to teach your kids what those flags mean and how important it is for them to remember it.
Generally, red flags indicate strong surf and currents. At some beaches, red means “beach closed” so be sure to check before entering the water. Yellow flags indicate moderate surf and currents which means that the water is likely to be rough but not exceedingly dangerous. If you see this flag, exercise caution and stay near the lifeguards. Green flags indicate the ocean is calm or clear whereas blue or purple flags often indicate that potentially dangerous marine life like sharks or jellyfish are in the area or have been spotted nearby.
Pick a Swimming Spot Close to a Lifeguard
Lifeguards are there for a reason. They know and can see things about the beach that most beachgoers don’t. Take note of where they’re stationed on the beach and stay near them when swimming since most drownings occur at unguarded sites. Also be aware that currents will naturally push you down the shore, so make note of where you started and which way the current is moving. Return to that spot in the water regularly so you’re never far from a lifeguard.
Globo Surf Overview
Learning and understanding beach safety and how the ocean works is important for you, and it’s a key thing that your child should learn as early as possible. Waves, winds and tides can all affect the conditions of the surf and if you can recognize some menacing signs, you will be able to take action and prevent any harm coming to you or your child. In addition to explaining to your kids how dangerous the beach can actually be, a great way to instill beach safety practices in your child is to lead by example. Your child is likely to copy whatever you do, so the first part of how to keep your child safe at the beach is following the rules yourself.
- Keeping Safe at the Beach, Kids’ Health