Whether you live just minutes away or need to hop on a plane to get there, your summer plans may include a trip to the beach. While the beach is great for sun and surf, it’s always important to remember that the ocean poses unique health risks.
1. Man-of-war and jellyfish—Your child may be attracted to the bluish balloon-like creature with stringy tentacles floating in the water or lying innocently on the sand, but beware. Even a washed-up jellyfish can still sting. And while most stings are self-limiting, they can be painful and cause a local reaction of swelling and redness at the site. Oral antihistamines and a topical steroid cream can be used to calm the itching and burning under the guidance of your child’s pediatrician.
2. Starfish and sea urchins—Both can cause puncture wounds from their sharp spines if stepped on. To protect your child, be sure they wear waterproof shoes in the water.
3. Fish bites/stings—Whether it is lionfish, stonefish, or a variety of other exotic species, there are some fish that sting by releasing venom through their powerful spines. Seek medical attention immediately if you think your child has been stung. When traveling, it is a good idea to ask locals what types of sea creatures to avoid.
4. Stingrays—A stingray’s tail has barbed stingers with venom-containing grooves. If the tail gets too close to your child, it may cause traumatic wounds. While stingrays don’t usually attack humans, they frequently cause accidental injuries. Seek medical attention right away, as symptoms can include fainting, GI upset, muscle cramps, and even seizures.
5. Sea lice (Seabather’s eruption)—Sea lice are the larvae of jellyfish. They usually do not cause serious harm, but they certainly can be a nuisance after a fun day at the beach. Sea lice leave a red itchy rash, typically concentrated where the skin has been covered (such as under bathing suits). If you think your child may have been exposed, remove the bathing suit first and then shower in fresh water right away to remove the venom. A topical steroid cream and an oral antihistamine may be effective under a pediatrician’s supervision.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, March 2020
- Visiting the beach can be fun for your family, but there are some dangers.
- Be on the lookout for jellyfish, as they can still sting if they are washed up.
- While stingrays don’t usually attack humans, they frequently cause accidental injuries.
- Sea lice don’t cause harm but can be a nuisance after a fun day at the beach.