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Summer Beach Tips to Keep Your Family Comfortable and Safe

Jun 9, 2008
When I was 16, it was June and we had just moved to Florida. I was so excited I could picture that golden tan I was going to get. I remember distinctly my father's words as we headed off to the beach with our towels and radio in search of the perfect tan. "Be careful this Florida sun is stronger than you're used to, you need to have something on with at least an SPF of 15 at all times, 30 is better but I'll be realistic, and reapply it often." We rolled our eyes as we left but took the bottle he held out to us. Guess what; it turns out he was right. The first time I was ever consciously aware of the heat from the Florida sun was years later. Fast forward to ten summers; I was on a plane heading home to Central Florida from New York, sitting in a window seat with my arm resting on the window 'sill'. I was wondering how much longer to Orlando when the pilot came on telling us to look out the window to see Cape Canaveral, it was also at that moment I noticed that my arm, still on the sill, had gotten considerably warmer. The truth is that much of Florida's climate is considered sub tropic so the sun is stronger here than the rest of most of America.

Here are some of the best tips to remember when headed to the beach this summer:

First of all follow a doctors advice - Use Sunscreen. They have everything from SPF 2 to SPF 60 but what does SPF mean and what does it do? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is calculate in minutes - the number of minutes it takes unprotected skin to turn red compared to protected skin. You get 10 minutes for every number meaning an SPF of 2 gives you twenty minutes of protection in the sun before fair skin starts to turn red, if you have darker skin it varies.

Always make sure children are well covered, they have sunscreens made specifically for kids that now come in convenient sprays so you can get it on them quick and let their squirming bodies go play in the sand. For the rest of us protection still comes in lotions, oils and gels, there are even lighter versions for your face and ones that protect your skin from the UV rays too. When applying sun protection let common sense rule, reapply it after you've been swimming or if you've been sweating, like after playing volleyball. When you start to feel your skin getting hot cover up or it may even be time to go in. A good hat will also keep the sun off your face.

Another wonderful shade provider can be Umbrellas. They are popping up more and more on the beaches these days, they come in all shapes and sizes and are very useful in keeping the sun off of you. They are great for families with small children and for people who like being on the beach but don't want to get much, if any sun.

Beach chairs are also making a comeback, again in all shapes and sizes, some come with carrying cases and umbrellas attached, you can even get ones with cup holders and foot rests if you'd like to really stretch out without being in the sand. They have short ones that sit right in the surf sand and ones that are taller and better in the looser sand more up shore.

Many Florida beaches have lifeguards on duty, if you have small children with you it is recommended that you take advantage of this service and frequent these beaches. Lifeguards stations are dotted along the beaches and easy to spot because a lot of them are brightly colored. Lifeguards are trained in CPR, basic first ad and normally have a direct line to police and emergency services. What if you go to a beach that doesn't have a lifeguard and find yourself in an emergency situation? Fortunately in this day and age there are people with cell phones everywhere but you should always carry some small first aid kit with you or at least in your car and know where the nearest help is located.

Two of the most common emergencies on our beaches seem to be jellyfish stings and rip currents. You can tell when you've been stung by a jellyfish because the affected area will start to burn or will become itchy, it can turn red and may swell up or get bumpy. Seeking medical evaluation is preferable depending on the severity of the sting but if none is readily available there are things you can do. First of all remove all tentacles that you can see but be sure to protect yourself from getting stung while doing this, also don't rinse the area with fresh water, this may release more toxins and cause a further reaction on the area, use salt water or don't rinse at all. White vinegar will help decrease symptoms too, it is also recommended that the person be given either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, barring any allergies, always be sure to ask about allergies. Immobilize the area to keep the toxin from spreading and keep the person as still as possible. Have them sit or lie down until help arrives or help them to a waiting car for transport to further medical care.

Rip currents are, unfortunately, somewhat common in this area. Rip currents, simply defined are areas of water rushing back out to sea from the shore and are especially prevalent on windy days. The best way to free yourself from a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. The worst thing you can do should you find yourself trapped in a rip current is panic, this uses up your breath and can cause you to drown. Remain calm and, if there is one near, try to get the attention of a lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard near swim along the shore until you feel the pull is gone, keeping in mind you can escape so try not to panic.

Ever go to a beach and see one of those little colored flags flying? Hopefully you have. These flags are meant to be a way for swimmers to know what, if anything, is going on in the water so even if you go to Florida beaches that doesn't have a lifeguard you can still be safe in the water. Here are the colors commonly used and what they generally mean:

Green - Conditions are favorable for swimming, low hazard
Yellow - Medium Hazard
Red - High Hazard
Purple - Marine pests present
Red Over Red - DANGER. Water closed to public use

When you get to the beach, if there is a hazard flag flying and a lifeguard nearby, you can ask for more details.

So go, enjoy the beach, and be safe out there.
About the Author
PlacesAroundFlorida.com is your source for Florida beaches and tourist info.
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