Have FUN, but first prepare and be aware
We are always stressing to get outside for your health. Being from San Diego, the beach is a local favorite for many of us, especially as the weather is warming up. It’s a great place to commune with family, friends, and nature. Our ocean isn’t called Pacific without a reason but most any beach will do. My colleagues and friends know that the beach is my happy place where I recharge. You just have to be a little prepared to keep it safe for everyone, especially your little ones.
The sun is great for vitamin D, but UVA and UVB aren’t good for the skin. I’ve had my first adolescent patient with skin cancer. If you’re going to be outside for a long time, cover your body from 10 AM – 3 PM with a hat, long sleeve shirts, and pants. Rash guards and other swim clothing with an SPF of 50 are great. Wear sunglasses; the retina is sensitive to sun exposure. Apply a thick coating of 15-50 SPF sunscreen 30 minutes before going into the sun or water and reapply every 2 hours (even “waterproof” sunscreens). The safest sunscreens for kids are mineral-based with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. See next month’s blog on safer Sunscreens and bug repellents (or go to wwwewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary). Don’t forget to protect your lips! Put up or use shade structures such as an umbrella or beach tent. Clouds still allow up to 80% UV rays so don’t be resistant to using sunscreen at the beach on cloudy days!.
Sand feels great between the toes and on the feet but it can get hot or have other objects in it. Have safe footwear to protect against glass, sharp shells, and metal. If you are going to an area where fires may have been on the beach the night before, be wary of hot coals potentially buried in the sand. Once you’ve checked out the area, you can run barefoot to your heart and soul’s delight!
Have your children learned to swim yet? If not, get them swimming lessons. Stay within arm’s reach of little ones, watching for rogue waves that can take them under. Know beach terrain – depth, rocks, waves, surf reports and pay attention to changing conditions. Look up current safety reports and obey posted signs. Pay attention to the tide, it can approach quickly in some areas and overrun your things or your way in/out. Know rain runoff and risk of possible health alerts: Hep A, red tide, swimmers’ itch.
Have FUN with shells, frogs, and crabs (don’t get pinched), but watch for stingrays, jellyfish, sea urchins in tide pools and shallow water. Pay attention to shark reports. I’ve known too many friends who were in great pain from stingrays and jellyfish. Just last year I had to leave the water as a group of small great white sharks were reported just off the coast, less than a quarter-mile from where we were swimming. Listen to your Lifeguards! Birds, especially seagulls, and squirrels love your food and will open your bags to get your tasty treats. Many swim areas may have insect problems, so you may need some insect repellent, as well. It is best to have separate products for sunscreen and insect repellent; combinations are not recommended.
Stay hydrated! Bring fluids, not the adult kind… Bring snacks that are unmeltable and easy to wash off if they drop in the sand. Think apples, watermelon, nuts. Avoid citrus, especially with peels, at the beach as they can have a reaction on the skin with sun exposure.
Leave nothing but footprints
Leave the beach better than you found it. Pick up extra trash and take it home or throw it away. Report dead animals to the appropriate authorities. I’ll never forget seeing a small whale washed up on my favorite beach and the smell of it making a beach day intolerable.