With hordes of summer vacationers, bacteria and fungi in the sand, beaches aren't always as clean as you might expect. Here are a few basic hygiene tips and precautions to take when enjoying time on the sand.
Beaches and fine sand are home to many viruses, parasites and bacteria. Thankfully most of these are harmless. But, unlike seawater at regulated bathing spots, the quality and cleanliness of sand isn't tested or monitored, and some beaches are cleaner than others.
To prevent fungal infections, skin diseases and other irritations this summer, try getting into good hygiene habits with these simple tips:
- Don't lie down directly on the sand to limit the risk of fungal infections. Lay out a straw mat, a rug or a thin beach mat under your towel, which should be washed or changed frequently.
- Shower as soon as possible, preferably on the beach if showers are available, or at least wash your hands and feet before heading home. Wash bathing suits and towels as often as possible.
- Make sure babies and young children don't eat sand and don't put their hands in their mouths after touching or playing with sand.
- Use an antiseptic hand gel regularly to keep hands clean, especially before eating. Sand can be home to the eggs of pinworms and ascaris worms, spread by cats and dogs, which can lead to infestations in the gut. These are unpleasant but aren't usually serious.
- Don't let babies or children play on the beach with no nappy or swimsuit. Letting kids run around naked isn't hygienic. Little girls risk catching vulvitis, a benign infection of the genitals.
- Don't dig around in the sand with bare hands or dig deep, as the micro-organisms, fungi and parasites that live there could get stuck under your nails.
- Don't leave any leftover food, waste food or rubbish on the beach. Don't bury it either. Take it home or find a bin.
- Don't take your dog or pet to the beach. While each beach or locality may have its own rules on whether dogs are allowed on the beach, animals are often forbidden for hygiene reasons.
- Take extra care in the tropics. Bites and stings from sand fleas and sandflies can cause severe itching. Avoiding the beach around sunrise and sunset is particularly recommended.
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