5 Tips for Hitting the Beach with Kids

Child digging in sand in a Purple Hat at Beach With the Holidays in full swing, South Floridians, tourists and coastal dwellers everywhere will be spending more and more time at local beaches. It is important to make sure that this is a safe and fun event for the entire family.  By checking the warning flags and following these five tips beach goers will be able to make the most of a day at the beach with the family.

Tiip # 1:  Only swim at guarded beaches.  Chose a beach with a Life Guard and locate your family’s spot nFort Lauderdale Beach with Beach Comber Tracksear them.  Fort Lauderdale has two-miles of Ocean Rescue Tower Guarded beaches  from 1014 Seabreeze Boulevard to 1200 N. Atlantic Boulevard.  Palm Beach County has thirteen guarded oceanfront and inlet parks from Tequesta to Boca Raton. According to Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue “Most water-related fatalities occur in unsupervised settings distant from lifeguard towers.”

Tip # 2: Make sure to know what flags are flying.   Ocean Rescue fly flags at the beach to help beach goers avoid hazard.

GREEN FLAG – Low Hazard: Conditions are calm; normal care and caution should be exercised.
YELLOW FLAG – Moderately Hazardous Conditions: Moderate currents and/or surf are present; use extra care.
RED FLAG – Very Hazardous Conditions: Rough surf and/or strong currents exist; swimmers are strongly discouraged from entering the water.
DOUBLE-RED FLAG – Closed to the Public: The water and/or beach are closed to the public due to severe currents and/or surf, water pollution, the threat of lightning, or the presence of predatory fish.
PURPLE FLAG – Marine Pests: Jellyfish, man-of-wars, and/or sea lice are present. This flag may be flown along with any of the other flags

Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue page andPalm Beach County Ocean Rescue page will give you a detailed report on water condition and what flags are flying and be checked before leaving home.

In addition,  the Surf Report  can help you make sure that you will have a great day at the beach. The surf report will tell you the size of the waves hitting the beach so that you make sure that the waves are ones that your family can handle.

Tip # 3: Sun protection and hydration are key.  Drink plenty of water, slather on theToddlers having ice cream on the beach --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Toddlers having ice cream on the beach — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

sunscreen and wear a hat. In an article written by American Academy of Dermatology Amanda Friedrichs, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Sycamore, IL states “People who get sunburned usually didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.”  The moral of the story here is not to be stingy with the slather, instead load it on!

Children are particularly susceptible to dehydration and will not always notice when they are thirsty so they must be reminded to drink often.  This is especially true when they are wet on the beach, they may not think about needing to drink the way we would..  There is some great swim gear that has built in SPF available now.  These suits are a little more expensive but are well worth it and they are an easy way to stay protected.   Don’t forget the hats.  Hats that tie under the chin are more likely to stay on the child’s head and can even be worn in the water, giving extra sun protection to those precious and sun sensitive eyes, face & ears.

Bringing umbrellas or small kids tents offer the kids a way to play in the sand and get out of the sun a little bit.  Staying out of the intense midday summer sun is also a good idea.  10:00  to 3:00 is the hottest part of the day so hitting the beach before 10:00 am or after 3:00 can go along way to keeping beach goers more comfortable and safer.

Tip # 4:  Know what to do in a rip current.  This is so important, most locals are familiar with rip currents.  However many people have no  idea of how dangerous they really are, especially vacationers.

Beach with child by KUWKA rip current is a powerful narrow current that can pull swimmers away from the beach.  Swimmers caught in one of these currents  can become exhausted trying to swim against it and drown in the process.  Experts recommend swimming parallel to the beach and out of the rip current.  The swimmer should then be able to swim back into the beach.

The United States Lifesaving Association estimates “that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation’s beaches exceeds 100.   Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand the power and danger that rip currents represent to swimmers. The combination of no lifeguard and rip currents makes things even more dangerous.  A 15 year old has already died this June (2013) when caught in a rip current at John U Lloyd State Park.  According to the Miami Herald red flags were flying, however the beach is unguarded.

To learn more about Rip Currents check out this article from the Miami Herald.

Fort Lauderdale Beach with pier in distance Tip # 5:  Be aware of Jelly fish.  Jellyfish can be a serious hazard for beach goers.  Jellyfish stings can be anything from uncomfortable to severe and can require immediate treatment.  So unless you are allergic they may not be deadly, but they will certainly take the joy out of a trip to the beach in a hurry. Anyone who has experienced a sting, knows that they are really not fun.

According to WebMD, victims of these floating menaces should rinse the inflicted area with ocean water not fresh water.  Fresh water can and will increase the pain caused by the sting.  Pour vinegar or rubbing alcohol on the inflicted area.   More severe reactions will include difficulty breathing and intense pain.  Ocean Rescue are trained to deal with emergencies like these and this is yet another reason for beach goers to visit a Guarded beach.  Remember that you can be stung long after the animal is dead, so where rubber soled water shoes while walking on the beach and use caution when digging in the sand near the water line.

Family outings to the beach in the summer are the part of our childhood, where we make memories for a lifetime.  With a little care, these memories are sure to be a little more idyllic for everyone.