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How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Memorial Day

From light eating to the No. 1 beach danger, here are tips to making your Memorial Day healthy and safe.

Summer Safety for Kids

For kids, parents need to keep a few essentials in mind for the summer, starting with SPF.

"For summer safety, you need to avoid sunburn and use good sun protection," says Jeffrey Weiss, MD, head of general pediatrics at Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona. "I think for most kids, the recommendation is at least SPF 25."

Another tip for the summer is to make sure your kids are properly buckled up.

"Parents should be reminded to put their kids in appropriate car seats," says Weiss, who is also a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For kids aged 4-8, that means positioning booster seats -- something a lot of parents aren't even aware exist.

"A lot of parents are putting their kids in that age range in adult seat belts when the kids aren't really ready for them," says Weiss. "Positioning seats are glorified phone books -- they raise the child up so the shoulder harness properly crosses the chest and the lap belt properly crosses the pelvic bone."

Weiss also reminds parents of these summer safety tips:

  • Lifeguards are a must. "If you're going to be around water, lakes, or pools with your kids, make sure there is a lifeguard around," says Weiss. "Identify an adult or a responsible teenager who is assigned to do nothing other than watch the kids around the water."
  • Use lifejackets when boating. Weiss echoes the sentiment of the American Boating Association: "Make sure you have a life vest that is appropriate for your child's age."
  • Never leave your child alone in the car. "Your car can get up to baking hot temperatures in just a few minutes in warm weather -- even with the window open a crack," says Weiss. "The message is a child should never be left alone in a car, even for a few minutes."

Rip Currents: No. 1 Beach Danger

What is responsible for eight out of 10 beach drownings? The answer: rip currents. This is common on many U.S. beaches -- even in shallow water, says Richard E. Gould, parks director for the Santa Clarita, Calif., and national statistics coordinator for the U.S. Lifesaving Association. They're often misnamed rip tides or undertows. But they aren't tides, and they don't pull you under water.

It starts on a windy day, usually before or after a storm. Winds blow up waves that crash over a near-shore sandbar. Gravity pulls the water back to sea, but more waves -- and the sandbar -- keep it from flowing out. Eventually, tons of water flow sideways along the shore. This is called a longshore current. If you've ever gone swimming and found yourself pulled far from your blanket on the beach, you've been in a longshore current.

But sooner or later, all that water has to go somewhere, says B. Chris Brewster, retired San Diego lifeguard chief and national certification committee chair for the U.S. Lifesaving Association. Brewster is widely regarded as an expert on rip currents.

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