Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on February 11, 2021
Slather on SPF
When you're outdoors in the water, wear a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. You should apply at least 1 ounce -- enough to fill a shot glass -- over your whole body, including your feet, nose, ears, and lips. Don't wait until you get to the beach or pool. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside. The higher the SPF on broad-spectrum sunscreens -- up to SPF 50 -- the better they protect against UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every two hours, or sooner if you are spending more time in the water.
Cover Makes a Difference
Shade matters. It can help protect against sunburns and heat stroke. The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., even if it's hazy outside. Seek protection with beach umbrellas, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts and pants. In general, clothing made of dark, tightly woven fabric best protects the skin from the sun. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it. Consider wearing sun shirts or other clothes with SPF built in.
Drink Lots of Water
One stylish water bottle isn’t enough, unless you refill it over and over. According to the Institute of Medicine, most adults need an estimated 11 to 15 cups of water or other fluids a day to stay fully hydrated, more if you're physically active or exposed to hot conditions. That's almost a gallon per person. Sports drinks are great after a sweaty game of beach volleyball. Otherwise, water works.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol Around Water
Alcohol and swimming don’t mix. Drinking can impair your judgment and encourage dangerous behavior. Alcohol also speeds up the dehydration process. The sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea that can go hand-in-hand with too much drinking can result in even further dehydration.
Have a First Aid Kit
A small first aid kit can prevent minor mishaps from spoiling your day. Take aloe gel for sunburn relief, triple-antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, waterproof bandages plus alcohol pads for scrapes, hydrocortisone cream for insect bites, tweezers for boardwalk splinters, ear drops for swimmer’s ear, vinegar for jelly fish stings, motion sickness pills for boat rides, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and a chemical cold pack for swelling.
Plan for Your Health Needs
People with health concerns should take special care when traveling, even on day trips. If you take medicines, bring enough to cover your stay. Some drugs can increase sensitivity to sunlight. Some may be affected by high temperatures. Consider obtaining a doctor's letter explaining your health needs. Check your health plan’s rules for refilling prescriptions and covering out-of-town care. Check for local health care access in case you need it.
Pack an insulated cooler with a cold source such as ice or frozen water bottles. Take easy-to-carry foods like fresh fruit, celery sticks, trail mix, or pretzels. Chill any cooked foods before you pack them in the cooler. And take a separate cooler for drinks so you only open the food cooler when necessary. Avoid glass bottles since most places don't allow them. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, don't let food sit out more than an hour.
If you're traveling to the beach, take games and toys like a bucket and shovel to keep your crew entertained. Even if they're water-wise, youngsters still need constant supervision -- whether they're swimming or sitting in the sun. They definitely should never swim alone. Kids may want to wear water shoes to protect their feet from hot sand or broken shells.
A Really Good Read
Looking for a beach or poolside read? Your favorite book source, such as your local library, may offer a list of beach reads, or your child's school may have a summer reading program. Or you can find reading sites online and look for recommendations from other booklovers.
Be Safe at Pools and Water Parks
Public pools and water parks should be staffed by qualified lifeguards. Always follow rules regarding behavior and height requirements and know which rides are appropriate for your child's age and swimming ability. Children who aren't yet toilet-trained should always wear waterproof swim diapers, and parents should change diapers in designated changing areas. Sick children, such as those who have diarrhea, should be kept out of the water.
Rip Currents Are Dangerous
Rip currents, mistakenly called undertows, can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including lake shores. Swimming in waves is harder than in a pool -- it's easier to get cold and tired while swimming in surf. Be aware of the daily water conditions and the location of the closest lifeguard. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Remain calm. Swim or float parallel to shore. Once out of the current, swim toward shore.
Some beaches, pools, and water parks ban the use of inflatable floatation toys and floats. Children or adults who use them may have trouble staying upright, while others, especially non-swimmers, may get a false sense of security while using them. Ask your lifeguard about using flotation devices. Regardless, make sure children in your care know how to swim, teach them to respect the power of water, and insist they swim with a friend.
On Boats and Personal Watercraft
Some beaches, lakes, or rivers allow or rent kayaks, canoes, or motorized watercraft. It's important for all boat passengers to wear life jackets -- they save lives. Sign up for boater education classes when possible. Remember, you may be sharing the water with nearby swimmers. And never drink alcohol while operating a boat. It's as dangerous as drinking and driving a car.
Know Your Destination
Some families may find it helpful to familiarize themselves with their surroundings if traveling to a new place. Knowing in advance where to find nearby health care or even how to find clean water or food may help your family avoid trouble and stay healthy while traveling.
Protect Your Beach
Leave the beach as pristine as you found it. Don't disturb wildlife and plants -- you're visiting their home. Use walkovers when crossing sensitive dunes. Don't take straws, throw away trash in public trash bins, and recycle items when you can. Cut the rings off plastic six-pack holders. Sea creatures like turtles and birds can get tangled in them or mistake them for food and they can die. And please, use public restrooms, not the ocean.
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(4) Mark Scoggins / Workbook Stock
(5) Jeffrey Coolidge / Dorling Kindersley
(6) Catherine Ledner / Taxi
(7) LWA / Riser
(9) Jeremy Woodhouse / Photodisc
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(11) Andrew Watson / Axiom Photographic Agency
(12) Peter Cade / Photodisc
(13) Jacom Stephens / The Agency Collection
(14) Brit Erlanson / The Image Bank
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