When the sun’s out and you’re getting ready to head for the beach, safety is not usually the main thing on your mind as you race around packing towels and trying to remember where exactly it was that you left the bucket and spade when you put them safely away last September. We all have a vague idea that water can be dangerous and that we should avoid getting sunburnt, but is that enough? By taking a few moments to consider the risks more fully – and how you can avoid them - you can make sure that your family can enjoy a fun day at the beach. Below, we highlight some of the key things to be aware of and what you can do to keep things safe.
Watch children at all times. As we all know, young children are curious and easily excited, and in many cases they seem to have a talent for getting into sticky situations! The beach is one place where you will need to keep an eye on them at all times so they don’t get into any scrapes. It’s easy to nod off in the sun, get lost in a book, or indulge in a spot of people-watching and before you know it, your little one has wandered off! Stay aware of where you child is at all times, and if she’s old enough to understand, tell her that she can’t go past a certain point so that she always stay within sight.
Bathe and paddle only where there are lifeguards. Many beaches in the UK have lifeguards in the summer months, and if lifeguards are present, you will also see flags with red and yellow stripes. These flags indicate the area that is patrolled by the lifeguards, so anywhere between the flags should be covered. There are other flags that you might see, for example a red flag means that it’s not safe to go in the water at all. For an explanation of what the various flags mean, you can visit the RNLI website here.
Be aware of local conditions. Every beach is different and can present different risks. A beach that shelves steeply into the water can be deceptive because the water gets deep very quickly, and so might not be suitable for a toddler to paddle in unaccompanied. Are there razor shells or stinging weever fish on the beach? If so, your child might need to wear sandals to stop their feet getting hurt. Also be aware of tides, particularly if you are on a beach that is not patrolled by lifeguards. It’s very easy to get cut off, especially near cliffs, and tides can rise much faster than you might think, leaving you stranded. And speaking of cliffs, if the beach has them, there’s a simple rule: stay away! Even small rock falls can cause injuries, so don’t take any risks!
Protect your children’s skin. Our skin needs to be exposed to the sun to that our bodies can make vitamin D, but it’s very important to limit the exposure of skin to the sun to avoid the short term pain of sunburn and the longer term risks of skin cancer. It goes without saying that you should use sun cream on your children, and cover up them up whenever possible. Another way of avoiding sunburn is to create an oasis of shade by using a parasol or similar, although keeping little ones in a small patch of shade when there’s a beach to explore is not easy!
It doesn’t take long to make sure that you and your family are beach safe - and remember, much of the advice above also applies to lakes, rivers, parks, and outdoor pools too! So have fun this summer, wherever you are, - and stay safe!