Shake the sand out of your swimsuit, pile the kids into the car, and stuff
a cooler in the trunk—it’s high time you got back to the beach.
Whitney David, MD, a trauma surgeon at
Mission Hospital, urges you to keep safety in mind while your family builds sandcastles
and rides the waves.
Dr. David offers these tips for an injury-free seaside adventure:
Mind the Sun. Sunburn is more than painful; it’s dangerous. Long-term overexposure
weathers the skin and puts you at risk of melanoma, Dr. David says. “The
nose and lips are particularly susceptible to sunburn. Make sure to put
extra sunscreen on these sensitive areas. Use a broad-spectrum lotion
that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, with the highest SPF factor possible.”
If you have allergies or skin conditions that react to the chemicals in
regular sunscreen, use a PABA-free children’s formula.
Grab Some Fins. Everyone who goes in the water should know how to swim. Lifeguards have
their hands full each summer, saving children from near-drowning incidents
at the beach. For every 10 children who drown, 140 more have to go the
emergency room, and 36 are admitted to the hospital for further treatment,
according to the United States Lifesaving Association. Dr. David says,
“Swim fins are one of the most important things your kids should
take to the beach, especially if they are novice swimmers. A good pair
of fins makes each kick stronger, helping you stay above water and allowing
you to counter strong ocean currents.”
Respect the Surf. Even proficient swimmers can be injured by shore break--waves that break
where there is a steep drop-off close to shore. A surfer, bodyboarder,
or body surfer who gets slammed to the bottom by a big wave risks potentially
life-threatening injury if he lands on their head, says Dr. David. “Getting
thrown head-first into the sand can seriously damage the neck and spine,
resulting in paralysis or even death. Don’t bodyboard or bodysurf
in areas with large shore break unless you’re an expert. Leave places
like The Wedge in Newport Beach to the pros. When you start to wipeout,
cover your face and your head with your arms, curl up in a ball and roll
along with the ocean to avoid spinal or head injury.“
Watch for Hooks. Swimmers and surfers need to keep a safe distance from the pier, to avoid
fishing lines in the water. “A fish hook stuck in the skin makes
a puncture wound and laceration, says Dr. David, “and a trip to
the ER may be necessary to have it removed.” Fishing line is nearly
invisible, so a long cast can send the line far enough out to snag unwary
beachgoers. If you’re fishing from the beach, look around for passersby
before each cast. If you’re fishing off the pier, use an underhand
cast instead of arcing the pole behind your back.
Ride Defensively. Bicycling along the strand is breezy fun, but you must pay attention to
avoid collisions. Cyclists and pedestrians have to share the crowded boardwalk,
and those on foot have the right of way. “Bicycle accidents can
result in bruises, concussion, and broken bones,” says Dr. David.
“Stick to the bike path if one is provided, and go slow enough so
you can stop for folks making their way across. Mount a horn or bell on
the handlebars, so you can signal as you approach slower riders. Youngsters
should wear their helmets, just like when riding on the street.”
Be aware of sand, which can be hard to see on the sidewalk. Bikes with
thin tires are more prone to slide on sand patches as opposed to mountain
bikes and beach cruisers, which are more stable.
For more information about Mission Hospital, click
here. For more information about Dr. David, click
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.