One More Summer Health Hazard …

child_beachJust when you thought it was safe … you’ve slathered the kids with sunscreen, you’ve got your eyes focused on them whenever they’re around the pool, you’ve checked the surf report to make sure there are no warnings lurking, but it seems another summer danger has reared its ugly head. Sand. Beach sand.

Researchers writing in The American Journal of Epidemiology found that beach sand may contain high levels of fecal bacteria, and that children who dig in it run a significant risk of becoming sick. Investigators for the study contacted 25,000 people who had visited seven different beaches about ten days before and interviewed them about their experience.

Those who dug in the sand, the study found, were significantly more likely to report having been sick — those who were buried in the sand were most affected. Children seemed to be at extra risk.

We’ve all seen times when beaches were closed to swimming as a result of contamination of the water from sewage or runoff, but who knew that sand is also affected? Apparently, bacterial levels in sand can remain elevated for a significant time after the water has returned to normal.

The study didn’t address possible fixes for the problem, but common sense would suggest a couple of things that may help: avoid digging deep down in the sand, don’t volunteer to be buried, and above all, shower off and wash hands thoroughly before eating when you’ve been at the beach. No need to miss out on the pleasure of time at the shore, just use care.

And all this time we thought the biggest downside of eating on the beach was that gritty feeling in your teeth when you bite down on that tuna sandwich.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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