Going to the beach as a family can be a fun activity with sand, surf, and other beach
festivities. But it’s also important to keep your kids safety in mind. Here are some tips to ensure you have family fun in the sun- while being cautious.
1. Use sunscreen
Sunscreen is one of the best protectors against skin cancer and sunburn- along with protective clothing. Kids should reapply every two hours- even if they’ve been swimming or playing in the sand. Make sure to rub in the cream or spray to ensure it’s in the skin. It’s best to use minimum SPF 30 to get the best protection from UVA and UVB rays.
2. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion or stroke
Being out in the sun for hours can get hot-- and the water is often not cold enough to really keep your child cool. Watch for signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion- such as dizziness,
exhaustion, confusion, and others. Getting them cool and shaded can protect them from getting worse- and ending up in the hospital during a fun family beach trip.
3. Watch for red flags along the shore
If the shoreline has flags up-- it’s not safe to swim there. This could mean there’s rough surf, the tide is too high, inclement weather imminent, or there’s a high rip current risk. Pay attention to the flags- check for what they mean- and listen to all lifeguards and other staff on the beach for instructions. There’s also flags if there’s dangerous marine life in the area- such as sharks or jellyfish. If these flags are up- avoid the water. You could save yourself a serious scare- or even an animal attack.
4. Watch your kids
This may seem self explanatory- but watch your kids. If they go swimming- make sure they
know not to swim too far. Give them floatation devices if they aren’t strong swimmers. Give
them a landmark if they wander off and can’t find your spot on the beach when they get back. This way- they have something to spot in the crowd and can find you easily. If you or your kids find themselves caught in a rip current- don’t panic. Remain calm, don’t fight the current, and swim with the current in a direction following the shoreline.
5. Watch for lightning
Florida is known for quick pop up thunderstorms- and these often pack a punch with thunder
and lightning. If you see lightning or hear thunder- get out of the water and away from the
water’s edge. Try and take cover in a well-built structure like a hotel or restaurant nearby until
the storm passes. Follow local weather forecasts to ensure the weather doesn’t ruin your beach fun. Remember- Florida storms are often quick- you’ll be back on the beach in no time. If your kids are bummed out by having to wait out the rain- bring some fun activities along with you that they can do to kill time- and make sure they’re waterproof or water-resistant.
6. Help swimmers in need
If you see someone in distress or in need of help- don’t be afraid to step in. Teach your kids
important skills like CPR, calling for help, calling 911, etc. This way, if they see someone in
need, they can intervene or get help from a lifeguard or other adult quickly.
7. If your kids don’t know how to swim- keep them near the shoreline.
If your child doesn’t know how to swim well in ocean water- keep them as close to the shoreline as you can. If they insist on still going into the water- watch them closely and make sure they have floatation devices to help them stay afloat in the water. If your child is with another child- implement the buddy system. Ensure they look out for each other if one child has trouble swimming- or shows signs of distress.
8. Waves can pack a punch
Ocean waves are often unpredictable. Sometimes they’re small and relatively easy to swim
through- other times- they’re large and dangerous. Watch out for big waves- especially in
deeper water. If you’re “riding” the waves- whether with your body or a board- make sure you
are able to swim strongly in case you get pulled under by the force of the wave. Never put your back to a wave-- and check with the lifeguard before you get in the water to see how strong the surf is- and if it’s safe to go in the water if you’re inexperienced. If your child is too small for a wave- keep them closer to shore. They can easily get swept up by a large wave- and might even drown.
9. The ocean has many creatures
There aren’t just sharks and jellyfish in the ocean- there are lots of other animals too- even coral in some spots. Ensure your kids know to leave the wildlife alone- and if they get bitten by a shark or stung by something- get them help as soon as possible. If your child is stung by a jellyfish- don’t panic. There’s ways to treat this without calling 911. You can rinse the sting with seawater- and then get some baking soda and vinegar to neutralize the venom that causes the pain. Contrary to popular belief- it’s best not to pee on the sting- no matter what popular culture says. Urine can actually cause the stinger to release even more venom.
Going to the beach can be fun- but it’s important to keep the whole family safe. Wear
sunscreen, watch for rough surf or dangerous marine life- and keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke or other illnesses while out in the sun. But most importantly- enjoy it!