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Kids' beach safety

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

From sunburns to jellyfish

When we're on vacation, thinking that our kids might get injured probably isn't on the happy, relaxing considerations list. But injuries do happen, and some specific injuries tend to happen at the beach. With some simple preparation, you can be ready for almost anything.

Jellyfish Warning Sign

We can't completely avoid risk at the beach, but we can mitigate it by being aware and prepared. Simple things -- such as knowing the location of the nearest urgent care center -- can make all the difference on a beach vacation.

Insurance and hospitals

Before you go the the beach, whether close to home or far away, make sure you have your insurance cards and generally know where the local hospitals are and the resources they offer. You don't need a mapped route, but knowing what's around offers some peace of mind should an injury occur.

Burns

One of the most common injuries at the beach is sunburn. While this injury is highly preventable with consistent sunscreen use, it does happen. While the burn may not be evident until you get home from the beach, some severe burns do make themselves known while you are still enjoying the waves.

Simple sunburns can be treated simply. Get out of the sun, rehydrate, soothe with a non-greasy moisturizing cream (but don't rub hard) and maybe offer some acetaminophen. And don't go back into the sun! Get more tips here for dealing with peeling, sunburned skin.

More severe sunburns that include fever over 101 degrees and blistering -- and any sunburn in children under 1 year old -- should be seen by a doctor.

Water injuries

Also common at the beach are water-related injuries. Respect the force of nature that the water is. Water safety at the beach is an issue all its own. Prevention is preferred, but if your child has trouble in the water and experiences any difficulty at all with breathing or walking, play it safe and call 911.

Jagged shells and dirty sand

All that sand at the beach is fun to play in, and kids love looking for shells, but shell edges can be jagged and sand is not even remotely sterile. Cuts, particularly on the bottom of feet, are common at the beach. Keep a small first aid kit and some clean water with you to clean out and protect injuries from further damage. Deeper cuts may require cleaning and stitching at the local emergency center, but your simple first aid skills and supplies should be the first line of defense.

Get tips here on items that should be in your travel first aid kit.

Jellyfish

A 14-year-old may think it's cool to pick up a common jellyfish and then declare, "My hands start to feel a little numb when I play with them," but jellyfish stings can be very serious. Some common varieties, like the moon jellyfish, have a mild sting, but others, such as box jellyfish or Portuguese Man-o-wars, can induce severe injuries. Some species of jellyfish have fatal stings.

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Should you urinate on jellyfish stings? Yuck factor aside, WebMd says "no." Vinegar, seawater or baking soda are all better alternatives.

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If jellyfish have invaded a beach, it's probably best to stay out of the water. If just a few are around, take care to avoid them and their sometimes long trailing tentacles. If in doubt, stay out of the water!

If you or your child get stung by a jellyfish, and you don't know what kind of jellyfish it is, seek medical attention immediately -- particularly if there is chest pain, difficulty breathing, bleeding, weakness or numbness. Until medical personnel arrive, rinsing or soaking the sting with vinegar and keeping still can help slow the movement of the toxins. Light pressure, such as with an ACE bandage, can help as well.

If you are confident the jellyfish was of a benign species, the vinegar rinse will still help. (If vinegar is unavailable, use seawater or isopropyl alcohol to rinse -- not fresh water!) If needed, use tweezers to pluck out the tentacles. Remove any remaining nematocysts by shaving or scraping the edge of a credit card across the skin.

The beach is a wonderful, relaxing place but is not without its risks. Being prepared for those risks can help make your beach vacation the best it can be.?

More summer tips for families:

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