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Important safety tips for the beach

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Have fun, but be safe!

From SheKnows Canada
Summer is finally here, and like many Canadians, that means a trip or two to the beach — a time to soak up the sun, feel the sand beneath your toes and, of course, to play in the warm water. Whether you take the kids or go with a few friends, keep in mind these safety tips while you're having fun.

Have fun, but be safe!

Infants (aged 0–2)

You need to keep your eyes on babies at all times while at the beach. They're not old enough to know how to swim, and that makes wearing safety jackets vitally important when they're near or in the water. Keep your infant in your arms at all times, and dress them in bright colours so they're easily spotted. Remember to apply sunscreen appropriate for infants every few hours, and keep a hat on their head. According to Health Canada, sunscreen should not be used on infants under 6 months of age, and babies should be kept out of direct sunlight and dressed in light clothing, a hat and sunglasses.

Toddlers (aged 2–4)

Since toddlers are still not able to swim independently, they also need to wear life jackets when near or in the water and should be dressed in bright-coloured clothes so they can be easily spotted. While it might be difficult to convince your toddler to keep them on, a sun hat and sunglasses should be worn when out in the sun. If possible, keep toddlers in the shade during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), or have access to shaded areas for them to cool down. They can get heatstroke very quickly, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. According to AboutKidsHealth, symptoms of heatstroke in toddlers include a body temperature above 40° C, confusion, headache, nausea or vomiting and fast breathing.

Kids (aged 4–12)

Sunscreens containing few chemicals yet high protection:

Tropical Sands Sunscreen, SPF 50 (chemical-free and eco-friendly); All Terrain AquaSport Face Stick, SPF 28 (provides good protection against UVA and UVB rays); Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen, SPF 30+ (unscented and recommended for sensitive skin).

By now your child may have taken swimming lessons and have a basic understanding of water safety. They're still too young to really understand the unpredictable conditions of beach waters (like sandbars, coral and waves), so instruct them to not go out farther than where the water reaches their knees. Go to beaches with qualified lifeguards on duty, and check in with them when you arrive. To keep your child safe in the sun, use a child-friendly sunscreen that offers a minimum of SPF 15 protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Health Canada recommends applying sunscreen 20 minutes before going into the sun and reapplying after 20 minutes in the sun to ensure all areas are covered. Environmental Working Group recommends sunscreens containing few hazardous chemicals, including fragrances and oxybenzone, and many sunscreens labelled as "for children" contain less of these harmful ingredients.

Teens (aged 12–17)

According to the Lifesaving Society,
drownings between 2010 and 2011 in Canada increased for children aged 13 to 17 and are said to be the second leading cause of preventable deaths in children.

It's not uncommon for teenagers to want to go to the beach alone with their friends. While it's probably more fun for them to not have their parents around, instilling safety rules in teenagers might not be as easy. If they're going with a group of friends, insist they only visit beaches with on-duty lifeguards and that they always let you know where they are and who they're with. While teenagers are likely stronger swimmers now that they're older, discuss the importance of being aware of the ocean surroundings, obeying all the posted safety signs and the need for sunscreen.

Seniors (aged 55 and above)

Overexposure to the sun can be of particular concern for seniors. It doesn't take a long time spent in the sun to feel the effects of dehydration or for sunburn to occur, so limiting sun exposure is advised. Visit beaches monitored with on-duty lifeguards only, and obey all swim safety signs. Stay in shallow waters, because it's easy to lose footing on the sandy beach floor, and swim with a buddy at all times. Some of the supervised beaches in Canada include those along the shores of Lake Ontario, English Bay Beach in Vancouver and Port Maitland Beach in Nova Scotia.

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