July 10, 2006
"’Life’s a beach’ may be a false metaphor. Between the beating sun, boating, swimming and sand, there are quite a few things to be wary of."
This summer, you might be in the market for a little sunshine, a cone of custard, and a leisurely stroll on a pier – but before you pack that picnic basket, there are some tips to keep in mind.
“’Life’s a beach’ may be a false metaphor,” said Anne Brayer, M.D. and co-director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids Rochester site at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. “Between the beating sun, boating, swimming and sand, there are quite a few things to be wary of.”
Brayer highlighted some tips courtesy of the American Red Cross and National Safety Counsel that should help to make your next trip to the shore safer:
Don’t be fooled by the clouds – just because the sky is overcast doesn’t mean skin damage isn’t happening. UVA rays and UVB rays filter through the clouds and both can raise your risk of skin cancer. Be especially careful to limit exposure between the hours 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. by slathering kids (and yourself) with a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15; remember to don some shades to protect your eyes, too, preferably a pair that absorbs 90 percent of incoming UV rays. Hats help, too.
“In the pediatric emergency department, we see several cases each year just for sunburn pain control,” Brayer said.
Beat the heat.
Make sure you and the kids keep hydrated, even if you’re not thirsty – it’ll help to keep your bodies cool and avoid the risk of heat stroke (avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, which tend to dehydrate).
Pay attention to changes in consciousness, temperature, skin dryness and reddening color, rapid and weak pulses, and shallow breathing, all of which can be symptoms of heat stroke, a condition where the body cannot cool itself, sometimes resulting in brain damage or even death. If you suspect onset, call 911 immediately and have the victim lie down in a cool place, refreshed with wet towels and cold packs, if available.
Be smart about boating.
The best thing you can do is have your kids learn to swim; plenty of courses are available to help teach them. Remember, parents, alcohol and boating shouldn’t mix – it impairs coordination, balance and judgment and is responsible for more than 50 percent of drowning incidents.
“You should strap yourself into a life jacket as routinely as you buckle your seatbelt,” Brayer said. “You’ll find that lifejackets come with regulations for weight and age, just like car seats do. Be sure to choose ones that are Coast Guard-approved.”
If there are signs marking off areas, heed them, staying within bounds and only swimming in supervised areas. Exit the water at the first indication of bad weather, and again, parents, avoid alcohol.
“Typically, drowning risk peaks in two age groups – toddlers between 2 and 3 years old who are unsupervised around water, and then again with teenagers engaging in risky behaviors around water, such as diving into murky waters of unknown depth or swimming under the influence of alcohol,” Brayer said. “No matter how old your kids are, you need to be careful to keep tabs on them when they’re swimming.”
To flip-flop, or not to flip-flop?
Sharp shells, shards of glass, burns from hot sand – your family is better off sandaled when strolling along the shore.
And, of course, there’s always that unforeseen injury.
“We see a lot of fishhooks snagged in hands, and actually keep a wire-cutting tool in the ED just for this purpose,” Brayer said. “That’s an out-there injury, but it goes to show that a day at the beach can sometimes be too exciting. We can’t say it enough: safety first.”
The Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Rochester is a child injury prevention program centered at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program’s main goal is to reduce the incidence and severity of childhood injury in the greater Rochester metropolitan area.