Child Health, Family Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Sun and Safety in the Sand

Summer …  for many that means preparing for a trip to the beach. But a day of fun in the sun can turn unpleasant without proper planning.

“No one wants to get sunburned, sick or injured while on vacation, so there are a few advance safety precautions everyone should keep in mind to avoid a potential mishap at the beach,” said Koshilie C. Gunadasa, MD, from Carolinas HealthCare System’s Lincoln Family Practice. Dr. Gunadasa offers the following tips to ensure an enjoyable – and safe – beach vacation.

Pack the Right Sunscreen

Most people know that sunscreen helps avoid sunburn and helps protect against skin aging and damage, but the type of sunscreen you choose is important. “Select a sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays,” said Dr. Gunadasa. “Also choose one that is water resistant and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater.” Dr. Gunadasa suggests sunscreen should be applied every two hours to any skin that will not be covered by clothing.

Bring the Essentials

A good book, radio or beach ball are at the top of your packing list. According to Dr. Gunadasa, you may want to bump those down a bit and make sure you’re ready for safety, not just fun. Make sure these items are in your beach bag:
  • A life vest, arm floaties or a swim noodle for children
  • A wide-brimmed hat to protect the top of the head from the sun
  • Sun glasses to protect eyes from harmful sun rays
  • Footwear, such as sandals or flip-flops, to prevent foot burns from hot sand
  • A small first aid kit
  • A whistle to call for help or to keep track of family members

Know Your Beach

Some beaches are safer and cleaner than others. Before you select a location for your vacation, review reports on water quality, health advisories and beach closures.

Check the Weather

Storms and high winds can create dangerous conditions in open areas like beaches. Check online resources or a local weather report for updates on boating conditions, surfing information and general beach conditions before you venture out.

Check the Water

Watch out for dangerous water conditions like rip currents. These are strong, narrow currents flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone and present a true hazard to swimmers. If you do get caught in a rip current, safety experts suggest you swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. Many beaches use a flag system to alert beachgoers to potential hazards, so be sure to look for those flags. Red flags often means the beach is closed or indicate strong surf and currents. Green flags generally indicate favorable conditions.

Swim Near a Lifeguard

Once you get to the beach, selecting where you swim is important. “Each year, about 4,000 people die from drowning in the US and more than half of those take place in open water like the ocean,” said Dr. Gunadasa. “However, the chance of drowning at a beach protected by lifeguards is less than one in 18 million. Children are especially prone to fatal unintentional drowning, so it’s critical for everyone to swim only in areas where a lifeguard is present.” Dr. Gunadasa also suggests that you never swim alone and that children always be supervised while swimming, even if they have had lessons.

Hydrate and Avoid Alcohol

“Alcohol can impair judgment and lead to tragedy in the water, including boating accidents and drowning,” said Dr. Gunadasa. Avoid alcohol at the beach and stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water, sports drinks or fruit juices.