August is Family Fun Month
It's time for a family vacation before the crush of the school year is upon us!
Some of the most popular places to have fun as a family are our local beaches! From jumping the waves to collecting shells to burying each other in the sand, the beach is a great place to be active and enjoy each other’s company without breaking the bank.
Make a Plan for Safety
The most important thing to do, other than have a great time, is to plan ahead. For example, I recommend you put sunscreen on everyone before you leave the house. SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) is recommended. Any brand or type is fine, though I do suggest avoiding spray-ons, since no one knows if it is dangerous to breathe them in. Bring extra sunscreen with you because you’re going to need to reapply every two hours, and after you get out of the water and/or towel off. (Keep in mind, however, that sunscreen is not recommended for infants less than six months; if you have one that little, only come to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, if at all, to prevent your baby from overheating).
Pack up a cooler with ice packs and healthy foods like fresh fruit and veggies (pre-cut), sandwiches (wraps work well at the beach as they are easy to hold) and bring plenty of water. This will help limit the temptation to give in to the mouthwatering smells coming from the boardwalk—at least a little.
Plenty of Water
And stay hydrated! Dehydration causes symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, extreme thirst, and more. Water is the best way to rehydrate. Sports drinks usually contain a lot of sugar and are generally not necessary.
Swimming safety is essential. Drowning is a leading cause of death among children. Swim lessons are great but do not protect a child from drowning. Stay within arm’s length of infants or toddlers, even if they are just in a few inches of water in a kiddie pool. And an adult should always be watching older children when they are swimming. If there is more than one adult present, you should make sure one of you is assigned to watch the kids at all times. It is very important to minimize distractions such as cell phones and socializing when it is your turn to watch.
Try New Destinations
If you’ve already had your fill of the beach (or pool), there are plenty of other things to do as a family. Go to a farmer’s market and try a new fruit or vegetable together. Or go on a walk or a bicycle ride together. The local state parks have some wonderful trails to explore, or you could just ride around your neighborhood. I must remind you, however, that everyone needs to be wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle—including adults! You need to protect your brain so that you can protect theirs; you are your child’s role model, and actions speak much louder than words.
So you say you just want to stay close to home? There’s plenty to do right in your backyard! Run through a sprinkler, have a water balloon fight or a hula-hoop contest, or play a game of kickball or Frisbee. Even make your own obstacle course, then compete with each other to see who can do it the fastest, or the smoothest—or the silliest! Another fun (and low-cost) idea is to make up your own scavenger hunt, with a prize for whomever finds all the items first. Or how about putting on your own talent show (with as much or as little planning as you like)? Making a backyard fort? Or camp outside overnight?
If it is just too hot outside and you and your little ones are melting, get out of the heat and do something indoors. For example, go bowling, to the YMCA, see a movie movies, or visit a local museum. Enjoy a free kid’s workshop at your local big box hardware store. Go to the library; most public libraries have fun activities throughout the summer, such as story times and movie nights. Or even consider going to see a children’s theater show.
Avoid Bug Bites
That brings me to an important topic: insect repellent. There are Lyme disease-carrying ticks in this area, and mosquitos can transmit a number of infections. I recommend using a repellent that contains no more than 30% DEET or whose active ingredient is Picaridin. DEET is considered safe in concentrations of 30% or less. The natural essential oil-based repellents (e.g. citronella or eucalyptus oil) do not work well and are not recommended. Neither are the wristbands or backyard bug zappers. And repellents that contain Permethrin should only be used on clothing or equipment, not on skin. Insect repellents should only be used in infants or children over 2 months of age, and should be applied no more than twice a day.
August is a great time to reconnect as a family, try new things, have a lot of fun, and reinforce healthy habits. I hope you have a safe and healthy rest of your summer!
Dr. Stacey Fox, MD, FAAP, is a general pediatrician at Beacon Pediatrics, in Rehoboth Beach. Beacon Pediatrics is affiliated with Beebe Healthcare and offers primary care for children from birth through age 18.