BEACH HAZARDS MUCH MORE DANGEROUS TO KIDS THAN SHARKS
While most parents worry when their kids are in the water, those tykes digging holes in the sand shouldn't be ignored, either. That's because if they hop in the hole they've created and it's deep enough, the sand can collapse on top of them, burying them alive. Think that's far-fetched? Well, researchers at Boston University Medical Center have tabulated 52 cases of sand holes collapsing -- and more than half of the individuals in them died, while plenty more needed CPR. So play it safe and don't let your kids dig holes much deeper than their knees.
We all know sunburn is a major summer bummer, but it's much more serious than that, particularly for kids: Getting just one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can double your kid's risk of developing skin cancer later in life. So no matter how squirmy your kids get at the sight of the sunscreen bottle, insist they apply a coat with SPF of at least 30 every two hours. If your kid's skin is already red, "take an anti-inflammatory like Advil by mouth as soon as possible to minimize inflammation," says David Bank, MD, a dermatologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. "Get out of the sun and apply moisturizer to soothe the skin. Try to avoid taking cold baths or showers, and drink plenty of water to offset dehydration."
Garbage and Broken Glass
Ah, that sand feels great between your toes ... and that's fine if you're in one place, but if your kids wander, make them throw on their shoes. "People may leave behind garbage on the beach, which can pose a danger to both kids and adults alike," warns family safety expert Meghan Khaitan. It's not just unsightly. According to Khaitan, "There can be the possibility of broken glass or packaging with sharp edges hidden in the sand." So don't let your kids roam around without sandals on
Even if your kids are slathered in sunscreen, that doesn't mean they can sit there and bake on the beach non-stop. Heat stroke -- where the body's core temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit and can't cool off enough by sweating -- is a surprisingly common and deadly ailment that has killed over 7,000 Americans since 1979. Kids are particularly at risk, since children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adult's. So make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids (at least 7-8 cups per day for kids 9-13, 8-11 for 14-18) and keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke including nausea, muscle cramps, and disorientation. If you suspect heat stroke, get out of the sun and call 911.
How can a kid drown on dry land? It may seem strange, but dry drowning, also known as secondary drowning, is a rare but potentially fatal possibility if your child goes for a swim. How it happens: Let's say your child breathes in a small amount of water -- which can happen just by swimming or even being dunked by a friend. Even if your child coughs that water out, within 24 hours his lungs could react by becoming inflamed -- and constricting his airways so much he can't breathe. "If your child emerges from the water coughing and sputtering water, be extra observant of him for the next 24 to 48 hours," says Juanita Allen Kingsley, a certified EMT. A continued cough, shallow or rapid breathing, sleepiness, and vomiting are all signs of breathing distress, and you should call your pediatrician.
Sure, the ocean might look calm and swimmable for your little tykes ... but you don't know what's happening beneath the surface. Rip tides or rip currents -- narrow but powerful currents flowing away from shore -- can quickly pull swimmers out to sea. They account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards, and result in more than 100 drownings each year in the U.S. Since they're hard to spot, your best bet is to only go to beaches with lifeguards; the chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million, while the odds of drowning where there's no lifeguard are five times as great. Or if your child does get caught in one, "teach yourself and children to swim parallel to shore," says Kim Evans, a lifeguard in Grand Haven, Michigan. "Since these currents are so narrow, you will get out of the trouble zone and then be able to swim back to the beach."
These blobs are far more ubiquitous -- and dangerous -- than sharks. "As the water gets warmer, jellyfish are very common, and their stings can be incredibly painful," says Rebecca Mersiowsky, a former lifeguard for Martha's Vineyard. So keep an eye out for jellyfish -- not only in the water but those that have washed up on the beach. "Some still sting if their tentacles are wet," warns Henderson. "If you are stung, don't rinse with water, which could release more poison." Instead, consider carrying a small amount of vinegar or rubbing alcohol to wash off the area; sprinkling with meat tenderizer or baking soda can also help.