Baby health

Beach blanket baby: Summer safety

Your A to Z guide to sun, surf and sand

By Leah Macpherson
Beach blanket baby: Summer safety

Summer is the perfect time to escape to the land of sandcastles, swimming and beachside bliss. But before you lather on the sunscreen, don your floppy hat and trek down to the shore, get caught up on your summer reading: Here, the pros share their safety tips for a relaxing trip with the family. Don’t forget the camera!

A Aloe
For minor sunburns, slather on soothing aloe gel (keep it cool to prolong shelf life) or apply a cold compress or one percent hydrocortisone cream to help decrease swelling and pain. Check with a doctor (dermatologist, paediatrician or family doctor) before using a steroid cream on young children. For moderate to severe sunburns (bright red skin, blisters), see a doctor or dermatologist.

B Broad spectrum sunscreen
To avoid that burn in the first place, smooth on an SPF 30 or higher. Brands that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are best at the beach — the thick formulations adhere well to wet skin. Reapply hourly and after swimming to ensure maximum protection.

C Cover
Sun exposure is a concern for all ages, and babies younger than six months shouldn’t be in the sun at all. Tote along your portable beach umbrella for a sun-free lounge zone. Visit

D Digging
Sandcastles and mud pies make the beach a blast, but before digging, inspect the sand to be sure it’s safe. Sharp rocks, shells and discarded items (broken glass, bottle caps) can injure tiny excavators.

E Ear infections
Swimmer’s ear, a common cause of summertime ear infections, occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal, allowing bacteria and fungi to flourish and grow. Watch for pain or discomfort, itching, pus or muffled hearing. Prescription antibiotic eardrops will clear up the problem. To prevent, dry the outer ear thoroughly after swimming.

F Foot protection
Protect tootsies from hot sand, and the critters that live in it, with flip-flops or water shoes.

G Glasses
Sunglasses can help prevent ocular damage that can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for durable shades that offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.

H Hydration
Little ones can quickly become dehydrated. Quench thirst and keep babies six months and older cool and comfortable with BabySport’s water bottle nipple adapter. Available on, a package includes one silicone nipple and two round bottle adapters that fit most water bottles.

I Insect repellent
Use insect repellent — particularly at dusk or near any standing water — to keep biting bugs at bay. Do not use products that contain DEET, citronella or lavender oil on infants under six months. Instead, use a bug net or tent. For kids six months to two years, use products with 10 percent or less DEET once a day.

J Juicy treat
Put juice boxes in the freezer the night before. Cut a corner on the Tetra Pak diagonally for a snow cone- style juicesicle.

K Kite flying
There’s magic in the air, watching a pirate ship or butterfly floating above the shore. Be sure fingers don’t get caught in the string — a gust could cause pinching or rope burn.

L Life jacket
Children should always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) near water. Make sure that your PFD is Canadian approved (look for the CSA seal) and fits properly (it should not ride up over the chin or ears). Be sure straps and buckles are properly fastened.

M Mother’s Helper
Ease the stress of dealing with small kids at the beach by hiring a high school student to come along. Take advantage of the extra set of hands and eyes by nabbing a little downtime for yourself.

N Nibbles
Stock the cooler with a bunch of nutritious, easy-to-eat finger foods such as whole wheat crackers, bagels, fresh fruit kebabs and cheese or carrot sticks.

O Ozone
Throughout summer, air quality advisories — particularly around urban centres — are issued when air pollution levels exceed national standards. Young children under five years old, as well as people with respiratory conditions, are advised to stay indoors during air quality alerts.

P Poison ivy
Unwitting explorers could stumble into a poison ivy patch. The leaves, which are oval shaped with pointed tips, grow in clusters of three — hence the adage “leaves of three, let it be.” Look for areas of itchy irritation that are red and blistered in an odd pattern. Mild cases can be treated with an over-the-counter topical steroid like Cortate; severe cases may require a prescription.

Q Quiet time
Avoid peak sun hours — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Take advantage of your little one’s crack-of-dawn wake-up time and hit the beach early. Or head to the shore for some post-afternoon-nap frolicking.

R Rafts
Rafts and floats in bright colours and fun shapes can be a great way to introduce wee ones to the water. Splash and play while keeping a close watch: Flotation devices can sometimes deflate unexpectedly or be caught by wind and pulled into deep water.

S Swimmer’s itch
This itchy, red rash, caused by parasites found in freshwater lakes and ponds, causes mild to moderate skin irritation. Soothe with calamine lotion, cold compresses, oatmeal baths and, under a doctor’s supervision, over-the-counter antihistamines like Children’s Benadryl.

T Toys
Don’t forget to pack buckets, shovels, watering cans and inflatable toys. Odd-sized plastic containers, cake pans, muffin tins and jelly moulds will keep kids entertained for hours and clean up in a jiffy.

U Ultraviolet Protection
The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a measure of a fabric’s protective ability. To protect little bodies, particularly vulnerable parts (neck, shoulders, upper arms, legs), invest in UPF 50 clothing, head-wear and stroller nets. Beach tents made with UPF material are a fun, safe play place. Visit

V Vigilance
Even when kids wear life jackets, adult supervision is the most important factor in child safety near water. In water, remain within arm’s reach of your child at all times.  

W Wading
Avoid wading in unknown areas. Water that looks shallow can hide sudden drop-offs and undertows. Fast-moving water can sweep a child off her feet.

X X-tras
Pack a few extras to avoid emergency dashes to the nearest store. Bring a bag with additional bathing suits, clothes, hats, sunscreen, snacks, swim diapers and water.

Y You
Be your child’s favourite waterside toy. Unleash your inner architect with a sand-château, or start a shell and pebble collection — just play!

Z Zinc
Zinc oxide forms a physical barrier on the skin to block the sun’s rays. In its most common form (lifeguard white), it forms a thick paste. Try kid-friendly colours such as green or blue.

Thanks to our experts for their beach safety tips and advice:
Lisa Kellett, dermatologist, DLK on Avenue, Toronto
Dale Miller, executive director, Lifesaving Society, BC and Yukon Branch
Canadian Paediatric Society,

This article was originally published on Jun 27, 2007

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