Staying safe on the beach

Having toddlers on a beach, especially in the peak season when they are crowded, can be very challenging. Families with young children are recommended to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, where the lifeguards can see you.

We are lucky enough to have many of our local beaches guarded.

Which local beaches have life guards?

St Ives; Carbis Bay; Porthmeor; Porthminster; Praa Sands; Gunwalloe, Lizard; Sennen; Kennack  Lizard; Marazion; Pollurrian Cove near Mullion; Poldu Cove; Porthcurno; Porthleven Beach; Tolcarne Nr Penzance

Know your flags:


Red and Yellow:- area patrolled, safest area to swim, bodyboard and use inflatable’s
Black and white:– zoned area for surfboards and kayaks
Red Flag:– DANGER, NEVER enter the water under any circumstances
Orange windsock:- offshore winds, NEVER use an inflatable

Top tips:
– Always swim at a lifeguarded beach
– swim between red and yellow flags
– know your flags
– if you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout HELP
– if you see someone else in trouble, get the lifeguard
– if you can’t see a lifeguard call 999 or 112 and ask for coastguard
– find out about the beach you’re going to before you visit
– check tide times
– read and obey local hazard signs

One tip recommended to me on a sunny, busy day, put a rubber wrist band around your child’s ankle with your name and contact details on and put a flag on your beach tent and show your child this.

In the sun

Sun protection for children is especially important – particularly here in Cornwall!  Here are some points which, if followed, will minimize the risks of sunburn and potential skin problems subsequently.

General Advice:
Be aware that burning can occur from sun reflected off – for example – the sea.

Children are more likely to burn, with childhood burning relatively more damaging – as well as risky – for subsequent skin problems.

Specific Advice:
Keep children in the shade between 11.00am and 3.00pm on the sunniest days. Babies should always be kept in the shade. Be wary of exposing children under 3 years to any prolonged direct sunlight.

Cover children with appropriate clothing, wide brimmed hats (with neck protection), sunglasses and UV suits if appropriate even on a cloudy/overcast day

Encourage children to develop good habits regarding care in the sun – which will then usually persist to adulthood!
Use sunscreen with good UVA (star system) and good UVB (sun protection factor – SPF- system) protection: minimum 4 stars and SPF 15 (preferably 5 stars and SPF 30+) for children with specific formulations for babies.
Consider also specific children’s formulations as these are less likely to cause irritation or contact allergy.

Apply regularly and generously with particular emphasis on areas such as the face, ears, neck, chest and feet. Reapply after sweating, swimming or if rubbed off and / or as directed by the formulations’ instructions (usually every 2-3 hours).

Do not use sun protection products past “use by” dates as they may not work effectively.  Usually this is 2-3 years.

Written by
Dr Simon Wearne MA(Oxon.) MBBS MRCGP
General Practitioner

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