Staying Safe at the Beach This Summer
Don't forget to Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap!
No summer season is complete without a trip to the Shore. Whether you go for the day or month, there’s nothing more relaxing or fun than building sand castles, reading a good book and diving into the ocean’s waves.
However, as exciting a day at the beach can be, it can also be rather dangerous.
Between rough waters, rip currents and other unexpected, natural occurrences, a happy day can turn into a bad one in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, a little education and preparation are the best ways to keep you and your family safe at the beach this summer.
“Clearly the biggest danger is drowning, as such all children must be supervised by an adult when they are in or around the water, regardless of the ability to swim or not,” said Dr. Christopher Stenberg, a pediatrician at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Remember to swim only in the areas that are designated by the lifeguards and be aware of warnings of rip currents, etc.”
In addition to the ocean, you should take care to protect yourselves from the sun as well.
“All children [and adults] exposed to the sun are at risk of developing a sunburn if they’re not protected by clothing, appropriate sunscreen or shade,” said Dr. Stenberg. A covered area that blocks the sun is particularly important for infants under six months of age as well. He further added that the risk of melanoma greatly increases with severe sunburns during childhood and teenage years. Macular degeneration in the eyes can occur from UV exposure as well—so be sure to wear your sunglasses.
“In Australia, we used to talk about Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap and it has been adopted here as well,” he said. According to the American Cancer Society, Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap! is the slogan for an awareness campaign designed to remind people of the ways they can protect themselves from UV radiation and prevent skin cancer. This includes “slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen, slapping on a hat and wrapping on sunglasses to protect your eyes.”
Parents should also be wary of sunstroke and dehydration, so be sure you and your child drink plenty of fresh water.
Additionally, if your child enjoys digging forts in the sand—which many love to do— make sure an adult is always watching. “It seems that every year some child is killed by a collapsed tunnel,” said Dr. Stenberg.
If you or your child has asthma or severe allergies, be sure to bring an inhaler or Epi-pen in case of an emergency. “Help can be a long way away,” he added.
While you should pack insect repellent to keep bugs away as well, many beachgoers know that they might not be the only beach creatures to threaten their safety. “Scary things in the water are really uncommon, but take lifeguard warnings seriously,” Dr. Stenberg advised.
Although many of these may not come as a surprise to frequent beachgoers, there is one danger that’s not as well known as the others. “The beach is one of the worst places to be during a lightning storm—if you hear thunder, it’s time to get out of the water and leave the beach,” said Dr. Stenberg. “In the USA, over 60 deaths a year are caused by lightning strikes and many of those occur near the water. In contrast, on average less than one person a year is killed due to a shark attack.”
Essentially, the best way to stay safe at the beach is to be aware of your surroundings and always supervise children in or near the water. Being safe can make a day at the beach a lot more fun.