10 Beach Hazards Much More Dangerous to Kids Than Sharks (PHOTOS)

Judy Dutton | Jul 13, 2015 Big Kid
10 Beach Hazards Much More Dangerous to Kids Than Sharks (PHOTOS)

kid at beach

If you're heading to the beach with your kids, you've probably been warned up the wazoo about the traditional dangers -- drowning -- and the not-so-traditional -- sharks. Sure, you should have your eyes peeled for those telltale fins and turbulent waters, but know this: These risks aren't the only ones that should be on your radar, not by far.

In an effort to alert you to a beach's more surprising perils, here are 11 to watch out for -- and what to do if you encounter them. Heed these tips to help ensure a safe trip!


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  • Sand Submersion


    Image via Terrie L. Zeller/shutterstock

    While most parents worry when their kids are in the water, those tykes digging holes in the sand shouldn't be ignored, either. That's because if they hop in the hole they've created and it's deep enough, the sand can collapse on top of them, burying them alive. Think that's far-fetched?

    Well, researchers at Boston University Medical Center have tabulated 52 cases of sand holes collapsing -- and more than half of the individuals in them died, while plenty more needed CPR. So play it safe and don't let your kids dig holes much deeper than their knees.

  • E. Coli


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    A leading reason for beach closings nationally isn't sharks but a far smaller creature: E. coli, a type of bacteria found in animal feces that seeps via rainwater into lakes, oceans, and even the sand on the beach.

    And the CDC agrees this is a serious threat: E. coli caused seven outbreaks at beaches nationwide in 2012 (the latest year statistics are available), more than any other bacteria. Kids are particularly at risk, since they often swallow seawater while swimming or eat fistfuls of sand ... which can cause stomach cramps, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea for a few days, or worse. Check the Natural Resources Defense Council's beach map to find out the E. coli levels near you. Kids can also curb their exposure by swimming with their heads above water and not eating sand (good luck with that).

  • MRSA


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    Contaminated water may also contain other dangerous bacteria, and one that's got scientists alarmed is Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which doesn't respond to antibiotics. According to the CDC, more people die from MRSA than AIDS, and while 85 percent of these infections occur in hospitals, researchers found this superbug on five beaches in Washington State, and theorize that many more public beaches were at risk -- both the water and the sand. To protect your kids, be sure to clean and bandage any cuts or scrapes before they dive in and to have them wash themselves of sand and seawater afterwards. If a cut or scrape looks infected a few days later, call your physician.

  • Sunburn


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    We all know sunburn is a major summer bummer, but it's much more serious than that, particularly for kids: Getting just one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can double your kid's risk of developing skin cancer later in life. So no matter how squirmy your kids get at the sight of the sunscreen bottle, insist they apply a coat with SPF of at least 30 every two hours.

    If your kid's skin is already red, "take an anti-inflammatory like Advil by mouth as soon as possible to minimize inflammation," says David Bank, MD, a dermatologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. "Get out of the sun and apply moisturizer to soothe the skin. Try to avoid taking cold baths or showers, and drink plenty of water to offset dehydration."

    More from The Stir: 5 Remedies for Sunburn in Kids

  • Garbage and Broken Glass


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    Ah, that sand feels great between your toes ... and that's fine if you're in one place, but if your kids wander, make them throw on their shoes. "People may leave behind garbage on the beach, which can pose a danger to both kids and adults alike," warns family safety expert Meghan Khaitan. It's not just unsightly. According to Khaitan, "There can be the possibility of broken glass or packaging with sharp edges hidden in the sand." So don't let your kids roam around without sandals on. 

  • Heat Stroke


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    Even if your kids are slathered in sunscreen, that doesn't mean they can sit there and bake on the beach non-stop. Heat stroke -- where the body's core temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit and can't cool off enough by sweating -- is a surprisingly common and deadly ailment that has killed over 7,000 Americans since 1979. Kids are particularly at risk, since children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adult's.

    So make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids (at least 7-8 cups per day for kids 9-13, 8-11 for 14-18) and keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke including nausea, muscle cramps, and disorientation. If you suspect heat stroke, get out of the sun and call 911.

  • Dry Drowning


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    How can a kid drown on dry land? It may seem strange, but dry drowning, also known as secondary drowning, is a rare but potentially fatal possibility if your child goes for a swim. How it happens: Let's say your child breathes in a small amount of water -- which can happen just by swimming or even being dunked by a friend. Even if your child coughs that water out, within 24 hours his lungs could react by becoming inflamed -- and constricting his airways so much he can't breathe.

    "If your child emerges from the water coughing and sputtering water, be extra observant of him for the next 24 to 48 hours," says Juanita Allen Kingsley, a certified EMT. A continued cough, shallow or rapid breathing, sleepiness, and vomiting are all signs of breathing distress, and you should call your pediatrician.

    More from The Stir: 10 Genius Beach Trip Hacks Every Parent Really Needs (PHOTOS)


  • Rip Tides


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    Sure, the ocean might look calm and swimmable for your little tykes ... but you don't know what's happening beneath the surface. Rip tides or rip currents -- narrow but powerful currents flowing away from shore -- can quickly pull swimmers out to sea. They account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards, and result in more than 100 drownings each year in the U.S. Since they're hard to spot, your best bet is to only go to beaches with lifeguards; the chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million, while the odds of drowning where there's no lifeguard are five times as great. Or if your child does get caught in one, "teach yourself and children to swim parallel to shore," says Kim Evans, a lifeguard in Grand Haven, Michigan. "Since these currents are so narrow, you will get out of the trouble zone and then be able to swim back to the beach."

    More from The Stir: 6 Tips for Safe Beach Swimming With Your Kids

  • Jellyfish


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    These blobs are far more ubiquitous -- and dangerous -- than sharks. "As the water gets warmer, jellyfish are very common, and their stings can be incredibly painful," says Rebecca Mersiowsky, a former lifeguard for Martha's Vineyard. So keep an eye out for jellyfish -- not only in the water but those that have washed up on the beach. "Some still sting if their tentacles are wet," warns Henderson. "If you are stung, don't rinse with water, which could release more poison." Instead, consider carrying a small amount of vinegar or rubbing alcohol to wash off the area; sprinkling with meat tenderizer or baking soda can also help.


  • Lightning


    Image via mike_expert/shutterstock

    When lightning strikes, the beach is just about the worst place to be. For one, water conducts electricity, so if you're swimming when it hits, you're pretty much plugged right into to all that voltage! But sitting on the beach isn't much better: Since it's so flat, and lightning is drawn to the highest point on the terrain, that could easily be you or your kids!

    Every year, 33 people on average are killed by lightning, and while it's unknown how many of those occur on a beach, suffice to say that if you hear thunder rumbling, pack up your things and head into a building or your car. Wait at least a half hour after the last crack of thunder to hit any sandy shore.

    More from The Stir: Beach Essentials to Keep Your Toddler Safe


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