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A Day at the Beach: Sun and Sand with Your Baby in Tow!

May 29, 2012

Memorial Day means more than just a three-day weekend and a grill full of cheeseburgers! It heralds the start of summer, and pretty soon families from Rhode Island to Maine will be clamoring to their nearest beaches for days of sandy, sweaty fun. A beach day can be a real treat for the tinier members of your family, but be ready with an arsenal of sunscreen, snacks, and activities. Good preparation means a day of fun for you and your kids.

Foremost, remember to protect your children from the sun’s rays. It’s OK to apply sunscreen to babies under six months of age. In fact, you may want to rely a bit more on sunscreen to avoid swathing younger babies in layers of protective clothing. Small babies have a hard time regulating their temperature, and long sleeves and pants can become too hot for them. And the usual car seat or baby carrier you use may be a little too much on a hot, sunny day. Try using a lightweight baby carrier, such as the Freehand Mei Tai Carrier or the Baby Bjorn Air. For kids of all ages, a physical sunscreen is preferable to a chemical one, as most are more easily tolerated by delicate skin. Physical sunscreens contain titanium oxide or zinc oxide as their active ingredients, and while they can feel a bit sticky on the skin, they provide adequate protection. Remember to reapply sunscreen after your children have been in the water.

Stave off hunger and dehydration by loading up on plenty of milk or formula for babies, water and juice for toddlers and older kids, and a choice of snacks in addition to lunch. Since many beaches are a bit off the beaten path, make sure you vary the snacks so that if your child turns his nose up at one item, you have a substitute on hand. Salty snacks and fresh fruit are great ideas, since they replenish the sodium and potassium lost when kids perspire. Remember to bring a cooler packed with a lot of cold packs and/or ice, especially if you’re bringing perishable dips, spreads, and sandwiches or salads with condiments. A cooler on wheels is even better. When lugging beach chairs and bags, along with babies, you may run out of arms!

And don’t over do it on the toys. The beach is a rare treat for kids, and the sand, water, shells, and rocks usually keep most kids entertained for awhile! Bringing a shovel and a bucket will enable them to make sandcastles, and make sure you’ve got an extra bucket for the shells and stones they’ll be sure to want to being home!

Finally, be on the lookout for signs of heat illness. Heat exhaustion can manifest as a tired, grouchy, headachey child. Bring your kids into an air-conditioned space and give them plenty of fluid if they exhibit signs of heat exhaustion. Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. Watch for signs including skin that is hot to the touch with an absence of sweat, rapid pulse, lethargy, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, headache, or rapid, shallow breathing. Your best course of action when a child is suffering from heat stroke is to call 911, and while you wait for help to arrive, lay your child in a cool, shady spot and dab his skin with a cool, wet cloth. You can prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke by keeping children indoors during the hottest hours of the day, from noon until 3pm, and by making sure they are adequately hydrated and take breaks from activity throughout the day.

Keeping these tips in mind can mean the difference between a smooth day with happy children and an exhausting day with cranky, sunburned little ones! Make the most of your beach days this summer by being prepared and staying safe!

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