As the mercury starts to dip and humidity starts to abate in the Gulf, it’s a sign that wonderful winter is on its way. Winters are the perfect time to step out into the outdoors and enjoy activities that range from picnics in the park to barbecues on the beach. People head to the beach in droves to get some much-awaited respite from the long, unbearably hot summer months. However, if you’re a parent, planning a day for your little ones on the sandy shores, it should include preparing for everything from adequate sun protection and first-aid to hydration and water safety. Dr Hala Fikri Mohammed el-Hagrasi, consultant in pediatrics at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, gives parents comprehensive tips on how to keep their kids safe.
Excessive sun exposure even during winter months is dangerous for your little ones. Though the weather seems far milder when compared to summer, it’s best to avoid staying out for long hours during mid-day when the sun rays are at their strongest. Sun rays are also reflected off the water so UVB radiation is still a threat. Make sure kids have protective clothing including hats, sunglasses, and apply sunscreen with at least SPF20 UVA and UVB protection. Protect their ears, nose, and lips and make sure to reapply every three hours, especially if they go into the water often.
It is prudent to carry a small kit to tackle minor mishaps. For instance, aloe gel is great for sunburn relief, while antibiotic ointment and waterproof bandages plus alcohol pads are recommended for scrapes and cuts. You will also need hydrocortisone cream for insect bites, tweezers for splinters, ear drops for swimmer’s ear, vinegar for jellyfish stings, hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
Ensure that your children drink enough water or juice regularly through the day when at the beach, especially if they are active and running about all over the place. Children can lose up to half a litre of fluid per hour if they are involved in physical activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests 150ml of water or sports drink every 20 minutes for a 40kg.
Take easy-to-carry foods such as fresh fruit, nuts, health bars, or cookies that children enjoy. Chill any cooked foods before you pack them in an insulated cooler. And take a separate cooler for drinks so you only open the food cooler when necessary. Don’t let food sit out more than an hour.
Never leave your children unattended near the water. Ensure that there is a lifeguard close at hand. Even if children are comfortable around water, they still need constant supervision – whether they’re swimming or sitting in the sun too long. Children should always have an adult when swimming or even wading through shallow water. Kids should also wear flip flops or sandals to protect their feet from hot sand, broken shells, bits of glass and other objects on the beach.
They are generally seen seasonally in the waters around the UAE and Oman. However, jellyfish are most commonly seen during October in the water and on the beach. Children are naturally curious and may want to touch them. Explain the dangers of touching jellyfish. While a jellyfish’s sting is often not life-threatening, it can be very painful for adults and children, so if your child is stung, apply hot water or vinegar to the area. See a doctor as soon as you can.