Advice from Canpol's experienced mothers.

Keep your baby safe on the beach

A sunny, sandy beach and blue water are a true paradise for a small explorer. You can bath in the water, build sandcastles, collect colourful seashells, and dig holes and tunnels. The beach is full of attractions. However, in order to safely enjoy anticipated relaxation in the sun, you should know how to take advantage of the beach attractions wisely

My holiday experience in sun, water and suntanning have taught me to follow several important rules, which I would like to share with you:

How to choose the appropriate beach?

Naturally the best beach for you is such which has a lifeguard, is kept clean and is prohibited for animals, or a beach which is completely secluded. It's also good if the entrance to the sea, lake or pond is gentle, so that the toddler will be able to wade on the shore. You should also consider carefully if the country in which you're planning your holiday will be suitable for your baby. Children, especially small ones, don't tolerate heat well. Therefore, it's best to choose a beach in a more moderate region, such as on the Baltic Sea or in the Polish Masuria region, in the beginning. You should accustom your baby to longer voyages gradually. Consult your doctor before travelling further. You'll need additional examinations and probably also vaccinations

Is a tanned toddler a healthy toddler?

un is a great companion during holidays and careless relaxation. However, you should know that it's purely a myth that a tanned toddler is a healthy toddler, and you should be very careful when exposing your baby to sun. There's no doubt that sun is necessary, but it shouldn't be overused, especially during midday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the sun is most intense.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of suntanning?

Sunshine makes us feel happy. It also has a positive effect on our health...provided that we know how to use it wisely. The sun stimulates the production of vitamin D in our skin. It builds up our immunity and is necessary for the absorption of calcium - the building material of bones. Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets for children, although it's a rare disease nowadays. Babies are given vitamin D in drops, and it is also added to some food products. Remember, however, that in order to get enough vitamin D, exposure to sunlight is enough, so you don't have to boost your vitamin D levels with drops. If you want to take advantage of the sun, you must do it in moderation. Otherwise its effect on your health will be negative rather than positive. Long exposure to sun is harmful, especially for children. The redness of skin that develops already after a few minutes of exposure is nothing else than a sunburn, caused by UVB rays.The effects of the second type of rays - UVA - can't be seen with the naked eye, yet they are even more harmful. UVA rays penetrate the skin cells deeply and change their genetic code. Their effects may only appear after years, in the form of skin cancer. Sun also dries up skin and causes its early aging.

How to enjoy the sun properly?

Remember, that long exposure to sun is very harmful for adults and strictly forbidden for babies! In order to spend time on the beach with your child, you should keep in mind that:
- children aged 0 to 6 months You shouldn't use any sunscreens with a sun protect factor for children aged 0 to 6 months. Their skin is thin and lets UV rays through. No cream is able to protect a newborn's skin from radiation. The best protection from the sun is...avoiding sun exposure. However, this doesn't mean that you are not allowed to leave the house with your toddler. Quite the contrary - you should take advantage of fresh air and walk a lot. Nevertheless, you should choose places that offer shade or half-shade, and install a parasol in your baby's pram. - danger period for UV radiation It's best to stay inside with your toddler during midday (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.) when UV radiation is at its peak. Yet, if you are outdoors, be sure to seek shade. During midday your child isn't safe on the beach even under an umbrella. UV rays reflect from the sand and your child is exposed to their influence. A baby's skin is very thin and delicate, and gets burned faster than the skin of an adult.
- children aged 6 months+
If your toddler is over 6 months old, he's somewhat more resistant to the sun than a newborn, and you should treat him with a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 20 (choose cosmetics designed for children and toddlers). SPF indicates the strength of the screen and protection against UVB rays. The package information will also inform you about protection against UVA. It's not enough to apply sunscreen to your baby before going to the beach - you need to reapply it while you're on the beach. You should protect your baby's skin on the whole body area (also the ears and neck) with a thickish layer of proper sunscreen half an hour before going out. Be sure to reapply sunscreen once every two hours and always after swimming. I recommend buying non-scented sunscreens with physical filters for small children and persons with allergies (physical filters act like a mirror - they reflect and disperse sunbeams). Sunscreens with chemical or mixed filters should only be used for children over 12 months. However, keep in mind that children under 3 years old shouldn't be exposed to direct sunlight.When going to the beach, be sure to take a beach umbrella or canopy for your toddlers.
- clothing Your child should be covered up with clothes, which give him additional protection from the sun and sand (sand can irritate his intimate area or eyes). I recommend dressing your toddler in a loose cotton t-shirt and short trousers. Be sure to protect his head with a hat and eyes with sunglasses. You can also get him light shoes, in case the sand is too hot or dirty to walk barefoot.

What to do in case of a sunburn?

If you didn't take proper precautions and your child's skin is red and tender, apply a cold compress and some moisturiser on the sunburned area. It should relieve the burning sensation. Make sure that the child gets plenty of water to drink, and check his temperature. If the child has fever, consult a doctor. If your baby gets a more or less severe sunburn, don't torture yourself with guilt, but take protective measures in the future in order to avoid similar situations. The skin has to be overexposed to UV radiation for years in order to develop skin cancer. Of course, even one sunburn causes changes in the DNA of skin cells, but if you protect yourself from the sun in the future, the chances are that the genetic material will renew itself.

How to play in water safely?

First, you must make sure that the water is suitable for the toddler. If it appears dirty or murky, or you see jellyfish swimming in it, don't let your child go in the water. Then observe your child's reactions. Some children are afraid of water. My daughter, Emilka, loved to bathe at home, but didn't want to go in the sea until she was 2 years old. She was put off by the wind, and the sound and sight of waves. When she was three, she overcame her fear and now it's hard to get her out of the water. My younger child, Tomek, however, loved playing in the water from the very beginning and I had to be very careful with him. If your toddler isn't afraid of water, it's best to find a spot on the shore. The child will be able to splash about in the water and you will be able to keep an eye on him. Remember, however, that water - especially in the sea, can be very dangerous to a small child. Even a small wave can knock him over. Therefore, it's not enough to peak at your child once in a while. When he's in the water, you should be too. You must at least assist him. If something happens, you won't be able to react as quickly from a few steps away as if you were standing right next to your child.I recommend buying your child float bands, which are safer than a swim ring. Yet, if you let him play with a swim ring, tie a long string to it and hold it in your hand all the time when your child is playing. When you're on a boat, kayak or pedalo boat, always dress your child in a safe vest. After bathing, dry the child thoroughly, apply more sunscreen, and dress him in dry clothes.

Can playing in the sand be dangerous?

Sand can also be dangerous for a child. Therefore, you should not only watch him when he's in the water, but also when he's playing in the sand, which children love so much. Don't let your toddler play on sand dunes or let him dig deep holes. The sand can collapse and bury the child. You should also choose spots where the sand is clean and there is no risk of your toddler digging up bottles, caps, ice cream sticks or cigarette butts. Even if the beach appears clean, keep an eye on your child, in case he tries to put a small stone or seashell in his mouth, nose or ear. In addition, during wild games, sand could get in his eyes and irritate them. Therefore you should always keep saline with you when going to the beach, as it can be needed in such situations.

Don't lose your toddler.

Beach is a place where it's easy to get lost, especially if you're a curious toddler. For that reason you must always stay alert when your on the beach with a child. Don't let him go too far. You can tell an older child to stay within your eyeshot (close enough to see you). He should also know his name, surname and address. I recommend buying a special ID bracelet for your child, and write your phone number on it (never hang anything on the child's neck!). It's particularly vital for a toddler who isn't able to tell his name or address by himself. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that you can take a break from watching the child. After all, it's better to avoid searching him, even for a short while. It will spare your and his nerves, and avoid stress. In the end, holiday is supposed to be relaxing.

Protect your child from bites and stings.

Although your child is safer from insect stings on the beach than e.g. in the woods, you should prepare yourself just in case. Choose an age appropriate insect repellent and apply it to your child's clothes and blanket/towel, but don't use it on his hands, as it could irritate the eyes. While on the beach, wasps pose the biggest threat. Therefore, don't give your child sweets or drinks that could attract wasps.


Mum of 7 year old Emilka and 4 year old Tomek, 12 years of professional experience

dr Barbara Leszczyńska

- consulting

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