Booster Shots

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To the beach: for sun, sand -- and stomach cramps

July 9, 2009 |  5:17 pm

Sandcastle Ah, the happy days of summer: Frolicking in the waves. Basking on the beach (responsibly sun-screened, of course) while Janie and Johnnie dig in the sand with their buckets and spades. Maybe you'll even build a sandcastle yourself, throw off the cares of the world for a while.

Wait -- should you be doing that? Such reckless sand play, scientists have found, puts people at risk for subsequent stomach cramping and diarrhea courtesy of fecal bacteria on the shore. Safer to walk along the beach or (gulp) go in the water.

In a survey of 27,000 visitors to ocean and freshwater beaches, 13% of those who said they'd dug in sand during a visit to a beach reported gastrointestinal problems when interviewed 10 to 12 days later.

As for those who allowed themselves to be buried in sand, their rate was even higher: 23%. So think about that the next time you decide to go have some fun like that.

The study, by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Environmental Protection Agency, was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times