11 Beach Safety Tips for Toddlers
Going to the beach is always fun and can be a great way to cool down while enjoying time together as a family. However, a good beach trip can become a great beach trip by following these nine simple beach safety tips.
Water quality and Lifeguards
Beach safety tip #1 – Check the water quality before going and before getting in the water. Signs about water quality and whether it is safe for swimming should be posted on the beach. The Natural Resources Defense Council publishes an annual report regarding water monitoring methods, standards, and practices in 32 states. The report for 2011 can be found here. The 2012 report hasn’t been published yet. Calling the local beach patrol or parks and recreation department for your area or the area you plan on visiting is another option.
Poor water quality can result in an upset stomach or diarrhea, ear infections, and sometimes more serious issues. Be aware, however, that the testing is often done randomly and not done regularly. “ ‘By the time the signs are up, the water quality may have already been poor for over a day,’ ” says B. Chris Brewster, president of the United States Lifesaving Association. (WebMD)
If there has been a heavy rainfall, it is a good idea to avoid swimming right after.
Beach safety tip #2 – Swim where there are lifeguards only. The lifeguard can tell you where the safe places are to swim and what any posted flags or warnings mean, as well as offer first aid when needed.
Beach safety tip #3 – Learn what the flags mean. Publicly maintained beaches will usually have some sort of flag system in place to notify swimmers if the water quality is safe, and if there are any other hazards that swimmers need to be aware of including sharks and jellyfish.
Beach safety tip #4 – Keep a weather eye. Even when there are lifeguards present, it is really important to remain within arms’ reach of your child. One good way to help with multiple children is to actually take another adult along with you who can help with supervising.
Beach safety tip #5 – Wear sunscreen. Babies and toddlers can burn easily. In fact, babies under six months old should not be out in direct sun at all. The sun’s zenith is between 10am and 3pm. There are quite a number of manufacturers of sun-protective children’s wear, but otherwise choose darker colors and tight-weave fabrics. A good rule to dressing for the sun is if you can see light through the shirt or shorts, then the sun’s harmful rays can also get through to the skin. For extra protection choose a broad-brimmed hat and a sunscreen with at least SPF30. Remember, SPF refers to how long you can be outdoors before you start to burn (eg: 30 times longer than usual) and only refers to UVB protection, not UVA.
Beach safety tip #6 – Sand can be great for building castles and such, but can also get into eyes and mouths, and can burn babies’ feet. “Keep your baby’s sandals or water shoes on…. When you get to your spot, plop him down facing you so you can keep an eye out for taste-testing, throwing, or blowing sand.” (Parenting.com)
Beach safety tip #7 – Rip currents (also rip tides) are “powerful channels of water that flow away from shore”. (Parenting.com). They can occur at any time on any beach whether at the ocean or the lake. Most beaches should have rip current conditions posted. If you go in the water with your little one, make sure you have good grip of his hand. If you get pulled out, do not panic and do not try to swim against the pull of the current. Instead, swim parallel to the beach until you break free. Most rip tides are quite narrow.
Lake and Ocean Dangers
Beach safety tip #8 – Jellyfish can sting whether in the water or on land. Some, like “bluebottle jellyfish”, are easy to spot. Others are small and virtually invisible. Children will naturally be curious and gravitate towards them to investigate. It’s okay to look, but it’s important to teach your child not to touch them because they can sting. A jellyfish’s sting is often not life-threatening though, and if you or your little one gets stung, apply hot water to the sting and surround area. Cold water will work, too, but it will take a little longer for the sting to subside. Lifeguards will also have pain remedies and strategies.
Beach safety tip #9– Seashells are pretty. I don’t know how many buckets of seashells I trucked home from the beach. But seashells can cut little feet or become choking hazards. If your little one is one of those who likes to go barefoot, “just head to the bathroom to wash it out with soap and water, then ask the lifeguard for a bandage. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after applying ten minutes of pressure, head to the ER. Otherwise, apply an over-the counter triple antibiotic ointment when you get home, and call your doctor if any signs of infection (redness and swelling) develop.” (Parenting.com)
Beach safety tip #10 – Leeches are a common swimming hazard when swimming in lakes. They look like flat worms and feed on worms, snails and insect larvae. They are actually an important part of a lake’s ecosystem. Some leeches also feed on the blood of fish, reptiles, and mammals. They are usually “found in shallow, protected water, among aquatic plants or under stones, logs and other debris.”
Leeches have an anesthetic in their saliva so often, creatures (and people) don’t know they’re there. The saliva also contains an anti-coagulant (similar to a mosquito) that keeps the blood flowing. “If you find a leech on your skin after swimming or wading, don’t pull it off. The mouthparts of the leech could be left in the skin and cause infection. Using an irritant, such as salt or heat, will make the leech let go. Be sure to clean, disinfect, and bandage leech bites to prevent infection as you would any other cut.” Some people will experience an allergic reaction similar to that of mosquito bites. Leeches are not known for transmitting human disease and are usually more of a nuisance than an actual public health hazard.
Beach safety tip #11 – Take shelter with you. Remember that beaches are big open spaces without shelter from the sun and heat. It’s often a good idea to plan to take your shelter with you. A small, UV-protective tent or adding a sunshade to your chair are simple ways for you and your little one to get a break from the sun.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
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Leeches. Thurston County, Washington. Web. June 18, 2012.
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Toddler Safety at Beach: Floating Device or Life Jacket Recommendation? Beaver, Alison.