Sand Diggers can Get Tummy Aches

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Research Reveals: Babies, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Activities: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Big Kids

girl digging in sand

Sand is a breeding ground for germs, study finds. Credit: jensen chua, Flickr

Towels, floaties, a picnic lunch and sunscreen -- there's one more thing you might want to add to your beach packing list: Hand sanitizer. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that kids who play in the sand -- and especially those who like to bury themselves -- are significantly more likely to go home with a stomach virus.

Researchers followed 27,000 people over a four-year period -- 2003 to 2007. They noted beach visits and activity at the beach. Then, 10 to 12 days following a visit to the shore, researchers phoned families to see who had developed any symptoms of illness. What they discovered was that kids age 10 and younger who played and dug in the sand were 44 percent more likely to develop diarrhea.

Before you cancel those vacation plans, keep this in mind: Only six percent of kids fell ill, and all of those recovered on their own at home.

Experts say the problem lies in two major germs, E. coli and Enterococcus bacteria, both of which have to be ingested to cause illness. A simple solution is to keep an eye on the littlest beachgoers -- those who don't think twice about eating sand. And keep a bottle of hand sanitizer around to use after playing and before eating real food.

When choosing a hand sanitizer, look for one that's alcohol-based, rather than an antibacterial brand. These have been found to be nearly as effective as using soap and water, but don't create resistant bacteria.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.