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5 Beach Safety Tips for Family Fun

When temperatures soar, families hit the beach. In 2021, Americans spread out their towels and smelled the sea an estimated 400 million times, according to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).

But while beach outings are one of the highlights of summer, they also present serious hazards – from sunburn and jellyfish stings to riptides and lightning. Here’s how to protect your family:

Sun Exposure

Some experts believe that just one blistering sunburn can double your risk for getting skin cancer, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest. Make a firm rule that kids sit under a beach umbrella whenever they’re not swimming. Have them wear a hat, sunglasses and a shirt or cover up when they’re walking around or playing in the sand. And of course, slather on the sunscreen and SPF lip balm.

Tip: Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and use approximately 2 tablespoons of it to cover your entire body. Apply a half hour before heading out, and reapply every two hours or right after swimming or heavy sweating.

Dehydration

When you spend too much time in the sun and heat or have a severe sunburn that gives off heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much water and essential salts, and the symptoms include dizziness, thirst and fatigue. Children and adults over age 60 are most at risk of developing life-threatening complications if they don’t replace lost fluids. The key to preventing and treating mild dehydration is simple: Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks, which restore body fluids, salt and electrolytes.

Tip: In addition to drinks, pack your cooler with fruit, which has a high liquid content. Cold watermelon chunks or frozen grapes are summertime favorites.

Rip Currents

Nearly 80 percent of beach lifeguard rescues are due to riptides – strong currents of water that pull away from the shore – according to the USLA. The worst thing you can do if you’re caught in a riptide is try to fight the currents and swim to shore. Remember to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until the current relaxes – which usually doesn’t take long – and then swim to shore. Or just float or tread water until you’re out of the current. Teach your kids to do the same if they get caught too.

Tip: Swim near a lifeguard. The chance of drowning is five times higher at a beach that doesn’t have one, according to the USLA.

Jellyfish Stings

Jellyfish are a pain – literally – to swimmers in every ocean of the world. Some are harmless, but others are poisonous, with barbed tentacles that inflict pain and irritation on people who come in contact with them. Mild to moderate stings can produce immediate burning pain, itching, blisters, numbness and tingling. They can also leave painful red marks that may take one or two months to go away. But prevention is easy: Don’t swim, play or sit anywhere near them! (Note: If you feel sick or have trouble breathing after a jellyfish sting or if the stings cover a large area, seek emergency treatment.)

Tip: Soothe the discomfort with ice packs and skin creams.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning kills about 60 Americans a year, according to the National Weather Service, and injures more than 300, often leaving them with debilitating long-term conditions such as memory loss, dizziness, chronic pain and muscle spasms. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from where it’s raining. As soon as you hear thunder, leave the beach and take shelter in an enclosed vehicle or building. (Open-sided beach pavilions or snack shacks won’t protect you.) Stay off the beach for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Tip: When you get to the beach, scope out a safe shelter in case there’s thunder. Make sure your kids know to come out of the water at the first rumble.

Water Explorers: Family Fun in the Sun

Water ExplorersFew images evoke the feeling of “getting away from it all” as does a canoe, kayak or raft gliding with the current. But you don’t have to live on water — or own a boat, for that matter — to organize an offshore trip. Nor do you have to sign on to an expensive, multi-day, wild river run to experience the wonders of water travel (sans motor) firsthand. With a little research, you can plan a safe and fun expedition that won’t sink your finances in the process.

Rent, rent, rent your boat: Where there is a lake or river, there are usually clubs, outfitters and/or liveries that rent out small vessels — and of course, life jackets — for several hours. Former river guide and adventure mom Julie Thorner of Bryson City, N.C., recommends using an adventure vacation site and doing a little research to find reputable outfitters. Typically, you don’t have to worry about securing a permit. That’s the job of the organization you rent from, and it’s covered by the small fee you’ll be charged for the rental.

Know your water: What you do need to worry about, says Thorner, are the conditions of the water you plan to travel on. She advises all canoeists, kayakers and rafters to make a point of knowing the water. Rivers and rapids are classified to help paddlers know how challenging a route is. For example, a Class I river has few ripples or obstacles, a Class II has some moderately difficult rapids and so on up to Class V, an extremely challenging river with narrow passages, rocks and violent waves.

Know your limits: Novice paddlers looking for excitement can consider a rough river but only if they invest in the services of a guide to travel with them, says Thorner. The experience of a seasoned paddler will help calm nerves — if not the waters — when the craft encounters Class III or IV rapids. A good outfit will have a policy for determining age-appropriate trips. Just make sure in advance that all members of your group, kids and adults alike, are up for the adrenaline rush that comes when you hit dicier waters.

Take it slow: Prefer to leave the guide behind? Paddling newcomers should stick to lakes, which are flat except during windy weather, or Class I or II rivers. You don’t need a guide to do a day float on a gently flowing river or on a lake, says Thorner. “Plus, it’s a great confidence builder to do it on your own,” she says. If younger children are on board, bring along plenty of snacks and plan to stop several times along the banks of the lake or river, making sure to tie up the boat if you intend to swim or walk along the shore.

A no-tip tip: It doesn’t take much for a heavy canoe or traditional kayak to tip over, and righting them, especially in a current of any kind, can be very difficult. Many outfitters also offer inflatable kayaks (often called duckies) and rafts, which are less tippy and much easier to right should they flip over and you fall out. Patsy Fisher of Etna, N.H., once tipped a canoe on the Connecticut River while paddling on her own, and pulling the overturned craft to shore — forget about righting it — was “incredibly difficult.” That’s one reason she prefers the serenity of canoeing on the lake near her home, especially when she’s with one of her three children. “You can hold a conversation — or not — while you’re skimming across the water,” she says. “It’s physical, it’s peaceful, and you can enjoy nature.” Perfect.

Sunburns and Children: Focus on Prevention

Summer vacations are creeping up fast, and if you’re anything like my family, that means heading to the beach. We love the beach. Love days spent relaxing on blankets, digging in the sand, discovering hidden treasures, and being soothed by the sound of the surf.

Beach days, however, need not be synonymous with sunburns. Summer safety is important and sunburns can cause long-lasting damage to the skin and children are especially at risk. All it takes is for a child to have one blistering sunburn in his/her childhood or adolescence to more than double their chance of developing melanoma.

So when it comes to sunburns, we must focus on prevention.

Here are a few summer safety tips to Prevent Sunburns:

  • Think of a sun protection package that includes: light clothing that covers arms and legs, sun protective bathing suits, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, shade, and sunscreen.
  • Choose a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. It should have an SPF of at least 15 (more than 45 is overkill). Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  • Realize that the sun’s rays are most powerful and most damaging between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Babies less than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Seek shade for baby and keep him covered up. Apply sunscreen sparingly to exposed areas (i.e. cheeks and nose).
  • Check the safety of your sunscreen at the Environmental Working Group website. In general, opt for PABA free and choose a sunscreen with physical sun blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) versus chemical blockers (like retinyl palmitate or oxybenzone).
  • Remember to apply sunscreen and the rest of your sun protective package even on foggy days!

Recognizing a Sunburn:

  • Signs of sunburn begin to show 6-12 hours after exposure.
  • Skin will appear red, warm, and likely will be painful to touch.
  • The height of discomfort occurs within the first 24 hours.
  • Severe sunburns may blister.
  • A child could also appear ill: fever, headache, and dehydration. If this is the case, your child needs to be seen by a doctor immediately.

Treatment of Sunburns:

  • Soothe skin with a cool compress and/or a cool bath. Pat skin dry.
  • Apply water-based lotions. Aloe is okay but avoid lotions containing alcohol.
  • Dress in loose and light clothing.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Do not use first aid sprays or medicated creams on the skin.
  • Keep in mind that peeling of the skin is part of the healing process.
  • For babies less than 1-year-old, any sunburn should be evaluated by a doctor.

By all means, go and enjoy those lazy summer beach days, just remember to protect your child’s skin and prevent sunburns from happening. Make sun safety a rule, not just an option, for your whole family. That means you parents, you are just as important as your children.

Get Bugs to Buzz Off And Leave Your Kids Alone This Summer

As far as Kay Klebba is concerned, “summer is for turning cartwheels.” She loves it when her four kids — 15-, 12- and 11-year-old twins — play in the yard of their Shelby Township, Mich., home. Unfortunately, so do the bugs. “We’ve had a really wet spring, and we live right across from a lake. The kids stayed out until just after dark the other night and came in covered with mosquito bites.”

Avoiding the six-legged beasties is next to impossible. “There are about 10 million insect species, and about 75 percent of the world’s animals are insects,” says Tim Forrest, Ph.D., a professor of biology at the University of North Carolina, in Asheville. Most people have a reaction to bites and stings — ranging from barely noticeable bumps to saucer-sized welts. But while you can’t escape bugs altogether, there’s plenty you can do to manage them better.

To Avoid Bugbites …

  • Dress to repel Bright colors and flowery prints make kids more attractive to insects, as do scented soaps, perfumes and hair sprays, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Stay out of their way Most bugs will leave humans alone, Forrest says, “unless you mess with their nest.” Steer clear of known nests and avoid areas near trash cans (beloved by yellow jackets,) stagnant water (mosquito heaven) and fruit trees.
  • Squirt on the good stuff For kids, the AAP recommends products with at least 10 percent DEET, to be effective but no more than 30 percent. Spray on only as much as needed to cover skin and clothes, have kids wash with soap and water when they go back inside and wash clothes before wearing again.
  • Make friends with the enemy Children who are excessively frightened by insects tend to overreact and are more likely to be stung. Help your child tap into his curiosity about nature and explore the insect world — on his terms. Watch a spider spinning a web or a bee gathering nectar from a flower. “Just explain that they should be calm and not make any sudden movements,” says Forrest.

How to Handle a Bug Bite or Sting

  • Go on high alert If your child has been stung, check if there’s a stinger left behind. If so, scrape it away — carefully — with a fingernail or knife blade, says Richard F. Lockey, M.D., a professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Public Health at the University of South Florida. Then wash the area with soap and water, and apply ice to the sting. Watch your child carefully for signs of wheezing or difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, or any dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting. While such intense allergic reactions are relatively uncommon — only an estimated 3 percent of adults and 1 percent of children react that way — they can happen within moments. And in rare instances, they can be fatal. If your child has any of these symptoms, head straight to the emergency room.
  • Soothe the sting or bite If there’s no allergic reaction, continue with occasional ice for 24 hours. There are other things you can use to relieve the swelling and discomfort, but there’s no solid proof that any of them work. Still, it’s worth a try. “Cortisone cream helps some people, and so do antihistamines,” says Lockey. Some people find relief with a paste made from baking soda or meat tenderizer and water. Others find that applying aloe vera, calendula leaves and even a slice of onion can help.
  • Keep an eye on it As kids scratch, bites can become infected, and some — like certain spider bites — can leave ugly, ulcerated wounds. “Keep it clean and covered,” says Lockey. “And be patient. While there isn’t much you can do to speed healing, it will go away eventually.”

Are Your Children At Risk for Dehydration This Summer?

Welcome to summer, the kids are out of school, summer camps are in full swing, family trips all over the country have begun and just in case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot outside. It is turning out to be one of the hottest summers on record with temperatures reaching triple digits in many parts of the country. As it heats up, summer safety becomes a serious issue. With all this fun and traveling going on please don’t forget to ask yourself one very important question, “are my children hydrated well enough to handle this heat?” the answer is most likely no.

Thousands of children each year are admitted to hospitals with heat-related illnesses and most go home, but there are the cases every year where children end up overheating and dying because they were not hydrated properly. As I write this, it’s a beautiful 94 degree Saturday here in Miami with all the humidity you can handle and that means one thing for us here at the fire department. A huge increase in the amount of heat illness related calls we are going to run and most of them will be on children.

As parents when we think of dehydration, we think of our children being sick and having a bout of diarrhea and or vomiting, and the doctor tells us to keep them hydrated with plenty of fluids. That is all well and good and as good parents we make sure our little campers get plenty of fluids and are back healthy A.S.A.P., But the kind of dehydration I am talking about is the kind we as parents tend to overlook in the rush of our day to day lives and that is the everyday dehydration of our very active children. By the time a child says he is thirsty, he is already dehydrated, and with studies finding that 50% of children participating in sports activities were already dehydrated we need to be hydrating our children before, during, and after physical activity as well as keeping an eye out for the signs of heat-related illnesses.

Recommendations for hydrating children ages 6 to 12 include:

  • 4-8 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 5-9 ounces every 20 minutes of activity
  • After activity, replace lost fluids within 2 hours

Recommendations for hydrating young athletes ages 13 to 18 include:

  • 8-16 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before activity
  • 5-10 ounces every 20 minutes of activity

Being able to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses is critical and should be done by us the parents as well as the coaches. A basic awareness of the signs of heat-related illnesses could make all the difference, so here are some key points to be on the lookout for as recommended by Susan Yeargin, PhD, ATC.

Types of heat illnesses

Athletes who exercise in hot or humid weather are particularly at risk of heat illnesses:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Symptoms of impending heat illness

In addition to educating young athletes about both the importance of hydration and the dangers of heat-related illness, ensuring that they are drinking enough fluids, and taking precautions to reduce the risk of heat injury in children in hot and humid weather, you need to watch your child for symptoms of impending heat illness:

  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Goose pimples on the chest and upper arms
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Faintness
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle cramping
  • Reduced or cessation of sweating

A child continuing to exercise when experiencing any of these symptoms could suffer a heat illness.

Heat cramps

Symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Chills
  • Clammy skin
  • Throbbing heart
  • Muscle pain
  • Spasms
  • Nausea

Treatment:

  • Move child to shade
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Have child drink 4 to 8 ounces of fluid with electrolytes (sports drinks) every 10 to 15 minutes

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Reduced sweating
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Dry mouth
  • Rectal temperature less than 104?F.

Treatment:

  • Move child to cool place
  • Have child drink 16 ounces of fluid containing electrolytes for every pound of weight lost
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Place ice behind child’s head
  • Seek medical attention, if no improvement

Heat Stroke

Symptoms:

  • No sweating
  • Dry, hot skin
  • Swollen tongue
  • Visual disturbances
  • Rapid pulse
  • Unsteady gait
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shock
  • Excessively high rectal temperature (over 105.8F.)

Treatment:

  • Call 911
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Immediate and continual dousing with water (either from a hose or multiple water containers) combined with fanning and continually rotating cold, wet towels on head and neck until immersive cooling can occur.

As parents we tell our kids to study and do their homework so they will be prepared, well we as parents need to do our homework as well when it comes to recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses and staying on top of hydration. Luckily for those parents who live and breathe on their iPhone there is help. iHydrate is an app that reminds you to hydrate yourself and your children before, during and after activities. App or no app, stay alert, keep those children hydrated and please remember, when in doubt call 911.

Ticks and Lyme Disease: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

Lyme disease has gotten a bad name. Originally described in Connecticut and New York, on the coast, near the town of Old Lyme, it was found to be carried by the deer tick (the vector), a far less common tick than the tree or dog tick. It now has also been found in most parts of the country and cannot be transmitted from person to person. The deer tick is very small, about the size of the head of a pin, and as opposed to a wood (dog) tick will not engorge with the blood of other mammals, so it is often times very difficult to see when scanning the skin. This tick must remain attached and feeding for 24 to 48 hours before it is capable of transmitting disease. Only about 5% of tick bites with the deer tick in an endemic area will result in Lyme disease in the human. Ticks and tick bites are far more common during the summer months so that is when your powers of observation need to be finely tuned. You should carefully examine your children at least twice a day for the presence of any tick attached to your child’s skin. Be sure to look in those places not easy to observe such as the scalp, between the fingers and toes, and in the pubic and the perineal areas (between the genital area and the anus).

When found, these ticks should be removed from the skin by applying a tweezer to the mouth parts firmly very close to the skin, and with firm steady traction (not sudden and jerky) pull the tick from the skin. You may leave some dark mouth parts in skin; don’t try to remove them but cleanse the area well with soap and water and treat as you would for any abrasion or cut. Those mouth parts may very well come out on their own or may remain and not cause a problem. Of course these areas can become secondarily infected ( as any cut or abrasion might) with bacteria and that would result in redness, swelling, warmth over the area and pain or tenderness Since ticks actually breathe very infrequently the idea of smothering them with petroleum jelly or other thick substance would not be practical. Do not try to burn them off with a heated pin or freshly lit match head as the only thing you will probably burn is your child’s skin.

If the disease is transmitted to your child (let me point this out again, this is rare) a mild illness with feverinitially might occur in some, this is more likely not the case however, and chronic long term vague illness is also not necessarily what you will see. The rash of Lyme’s disease also does not occur in all cases and is fairly characteristic: initially a reddened bump that subsequently clears in the middle leaving a red ring that slowly and inexorably enlarges. Sometimes there is more than one ring and other times that ring may enlarge significantly to cover entire body parts and extend to others. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to recognize this as a ring. There are blood tests that can detect the presence of Lyme disease but these might not be positive for several weeks. Treatment is easily accomplished through the use of an antibiotic for 21 – 28 days and there is time to begin treatment, up to a week to 10 days without fear of the disease progressing. The antibiotics used are common to everyone generally without side effects: Amoxicillin for young children and doxycycline (a form of tetracycline) for children 8-10 years and older.

This is a diagnoses made usually on clinical grounds; that is as a result of your child’s doctor’s experience in light of a certain constellation of signs and symptoms. Checking the tick for the presence of Lyme disease (if you have the tick) is not recommended and neither is preventive treatment if living in a high density tick area. There are reports of “chronic Lyme disease” and the treatment of such a suspected occurrence is not clear- probably the services of a specialist (infectious disease) should be sought.

Summary– Lyme disease is not very common even though you may hear of cases in your area. If you are concerned after a tick bite take your child to his/her doctor and he/she will make the diagnosis and suggest treatment if necessary. Check your child twice a day for the presence of any ticks and remove as described above. There is plenty of time to begin treatment and the antibiotics used are well tolerated; once treated it is not recommended to repeat lab work if done originally, and it can be assumed that the illness is gone and will not leave long lasting problems.

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