Every summer, families pack up their picnic baskets and beach bags and head out for a day of fun at the beach. Prior to leaving, parents make sure they have everything they need, including bathing suits, flip flops, beach toys and sunscreen. In addition to having everything you need for the beach, it is important take with you a little bit of knowledge. Take time before going to the beach to learn and to teach your kids about beach and ocean safety.
Lifeguard on Duty
Swim in a lifeguard-protected area. Obey all instructions and orders from the lifeguards. Read the warnings on the lifeguard sign before heading down to the beach. Posted warnings may include sightings of wildlife, water conditions, weather forecasts and rip current warnings.
Take time to talk with the lifeguard. He or she will be able to give you updates about current conditions and his or her personal opinion about water safety and ocean conditions.
According to the American Red Cross, a different set of skills are needed when swimming in the ocean than those required to safely swim in a pool. Swimmers need to be stronger and understand how to get to shore if they are pulled out by ocean waves.
It is important for parents to know their own limitations. If you feel you cannot safely swim in the ocean, then don’t do it. Doing so could put both you and your child in danger.
Never let small children swim alone in the ocean. Even if they are just walking in shallow water, strong waves can cause a small child to lose his or her footing.
Always keep a lookout for aquatic life, including dolphins, jellyfish, manta rays, large schools of fish and sharks. Avoid large patches of plants, which can hide dangerous wildlife. Leave any aquatic life you encounter alone and walk away.
Have children and those who are inexperienced swimmers use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while out in the water. Never use any other type of floatation device unless you and/or your child is able to safely swim in the water conditions of the ocean without the assistance of a floatation device.
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Rip currents are one of the main causes of deaths at beaches every year. Pay close attention to water conditions and understand that a rip current can occur in any large body of water, including low spots, breaks in sandbars and near structures, such as piers. A rip current, also known as riptides and undertows, are channels of water that flow out from the beach back into the open sea.
Here are some tips to help deal with rip currents that every parent should know and teach kids who plan to swim in the ocean:
- Stay calm
- Do not fight the current
- Swim parallel to the shore
- Float or tread water until you are out of the current
- Swim to shore as soon as you feel you can
- Draw attention to yourself
- Never swim near piers or jetties
On the Sands of the Beach
Make sure to apply enough sunscreen and keep applying it throughout your time at the beach. This will help prevent sunburns that can be painful and could lead to skin cancer as the kids get older.
Dress kids in light colored clothing to help keep everyone cool. If desired, have kids wear sunglasses, a hat and a swim shirt to help protect them from the sun. Do not forget the beach towels, blankets and an umbrella to keep the sun off of you while relaxing on the sands of the beach.
Pack plenty of water and snacks to keep kids hydrated. Make sure kids drink the water regularly throughout the day to keep hydrated and watch out for the signs of heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke may include hot and dry skin, confusion, loss of consciousness, vomiting frequently and trouble breathing. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, remove him or her from the sun and contact a lifeguard or 911 immediately for assistance.
Do not swim in the ocean when there are thunderstorms in the area or when a hurricane is approaching. In addition to the threat of lightning, conciliations of the ocean waters may get a little rough and difficult for even the most seasoned ocean swimmer to swim safely.
Be prepared for the high temperatures and have plenty of water, snacks and lots of shade. It might be best to consider making plans to leave the beach for a bit and cool off in an area restaurant for lunch. This will help you and the kids avoid being exposed to the sun during the hottest time of the day.
Pay attention to your kids both in the water and when playing in the sand nearby. Never leave kids unattended. If you have to leave the beach area for any reason, assign someone in your party to watch the kids, but do not rely on older kids to keep an eye on the younger ones. Always find another adult in your group to be in charge.
Common sense and some simple preparations will help keep both you and your kids safe this summer while spending time at the beach. Pay attention to your kids and know the warning signs and dangers associated with playing in the sand, being out in the hot summer sun and swimming in the ocean. Being prepared and knowledgeable are two ways to help ensure your kids are safe, both in and out of the water.
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Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.