Summer Safety: What’s in Sunscreen?

By Melody Sun, clinical pharmacist at CHOC Children’s

The skin is the largest organ of the body, and our best protection against the outside environment. Sunlight stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D, however, daily prolonged exposure to radiation from the sun can cause wrinkles, freckles, and, in the worst case, skin cancer. Sunscreen can protect the skin so that it can continue to protect the rest of the body. Remember that radiation from the sun penetrates the skin even on cloudy and snowy days, so it is important to apply sunscreen whenever going outside.

Knowing when to apply is the first step, but what is the difference between products? Navigating your way through the endless number of products can be challenging. The active ingredients, which are listed in the Drug Facts Label, protect the skin from different types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation called UVA and UVB. UVA reaches deeper into the part of the skin that provides support and nourishment to the rest of the skin layers. UVB can damage the part of the skin that contains important structures such as blood vessels and nerve endings. Sunscreen protects the skin by reflecting or absorbing the radiation.  The ‘reflective’ property is not as strong as the ‘absorptive’ property because the UV radiation can hit other areas.

Let the following table be a guide to help you understand the ingredients in your sunscreen, and how each of them is important in helping protect you and your family.

Active Ingredient Radiation Coverage Considerations
Absorbs radiation

Best UVA coverage. Must be in combination with other ingredients (ie, octocrylene). However, may degrade other sunscreen ingredients.
Ecamsule ✔ (partial) Must be in combination with other ingredients (ie, octocrylene). Less water resistant.
Oxybenzone ✔ (partial) Can cause allergic reactions, not water resistant

Glycerol PABA

Most potent UVB absorber, potential for allergic reactions (related to PABA)
Octocrylene Stabilizes other ingredients.


Water resistant, avoid combination with avobenzone (destabilizes avobenzone’s UVA protection).
Octyl salicylate (octisalate)

Trolamine salicylate


Stabilizes other ingredients, water resistant, less potent in UVB absorption than others
Ensulizole ✔︎ Less oily application, not water resistant
Reflects and disperses radiation
Titanium dioxide Transparent formulations available
Zinc oxide Leaves whitened layer on skin and clothing

Note: The above chart is not all inclusive.

Consider the following guidelines when making your selection:

  • Make sure the combination of active ingredients covers both UVA and UVB
  • If you’ll be sweating or around water, select a combination that is water-resistant.
  • ‘Water resistant’ labeling means the product retains its activity for at least 40 minutes in water. ‘Very water resistant’ means at least 80 minutes.
  • Will you be in the sun all day? If so, select a higher SPF depending on your skin tone and individual sensitivity to sunburns.

Consult your child’s pediatrician with questions on specific sun prevention mechanisms for your family.

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Child Passenger Safety Tips for Your Next Vacation

Finding the right car seat for your little passenger is an important task for all parents. Recent legislation states all children in California must be in rear-facing car seats until age two. If you’re traveling this summer, consider the following guidelines for passenger safety from the experts of CHOC Children’s community education department.

No matter what your mode of transportation might be, bring your own car seat whenever possible, instead of renting one through a car rental service, says Amy Frias, community educator at CHOC.

“It’s hard to know if that company has really kept the car seat clean, if it was ever involved in a crash, or recalled ,” says Frias.

If you are flying and cannot travel with your own car seat, and you are meeting family or friends, have them bring a car sear to the airport when you arrive.

Children over the age of two must have their own seat on an airplane, and in these circumstances, says Frias, using an appropriate car seat protects kids from turbulence.

When purchasing a car seat, CHOC community educators recommend purchasing a seat that fits well into your vehicle, fits your child and your budget.  Another consideration would be if you travel often by air, you may want a lighter seat.

Summer is also a popular time for recreational vehicle travel. Many parents assume that RVs have the same safety standards as a bus, given their size, which is not true, says Frias.

The most common injuries related to RV travel revolve around projectiles- which could even include cabinetry that appears properly mounted to the interior walls. Loose objects in the RV pose additional dangers.

“If your family is traveling by RV this summer, the safest place for your child to ride is in a car that may be caravanning with the RV, and properly restrained in their appropriate car seat,” says Frias. “RVs are rarely ideal for transporting children.”

Car seats should never be installed in RV seats that face backwards or sideways. For all passengers, make sure they are buckled up when the RV is moving.

“Traveling with kids can be exciting but challenging says Frias. Parents should remember that safety doesn’t go on vacation when you do.”

For questions about the car seat that is best suited for your family, call CHOC’s community education department at 714-509-8897.

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Keeping Kids Active This Summer

By Michael Molina, MPH, Community Educator at CHOC Children’s

Children and adolescents should meet a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The full 60 minutes doesn’t have to be all at once- you can break it down in smaller sessions such as 15-20 minutes. Being active is an essential part a child’s growth and development, and keeping them healthy. Incorporate these easy tips into your family’s summer plans to make sure everyone gets the physical activity they need and deserve.

Be active with your children

Be a role model for your kids. Children are more likely to stay active when they are having fun with their parents. Using words like “play time” or “fun time” makes it more exciting and appealing than “exercise” or “working out.” Tap into activities or sports that they are interested in, such as walking the dog, playing catch, soccer, riding a bike, or an obstacle course in your backyard.

Parents should encourage physical activities for the whole family, and time together should concentrate on 3 areas:

  • Endurance (increase heart rate)- Run away from the person who’s “it” or balloon tag
  • Strength (using our muscles)-Try crossing the monkey bars. No need for weights for this one; use your body weight for pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups at the playground
  • Flexibility (stretching our muscles)- Fun yoga poses or something as simple as bending down to tie their shoes

Limit screen time for the entire family

Children should not exceed more than two hours of screen time each day. Screen time is considered watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer, tablet or smartphones.

Children are more likely to eat foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium during long periods of screen time that surpass their serving size.

Screen time means time away from being active. Long term consequences of being physically inactive increase one’s risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Join a summer camp or program

Look for your city’s summer camps or programs, or join your local Boys and Girls Club.

Ask what types of activities  these summer programs provide for your child and if they are age appropriate. Also try to find ways that you can be involved with the summer program.

Drink plenty of water

Provide water as a source of rehydration, not fruit drinks. Many fruit drinks are advertised as “healthy” drinks because they have images of real fruit on the packages when really it is made with a small percent of real fruit.

Water is a great source of hydration and it is calorie-free.  Try adding slices of real fruit in the water for more flavor.

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Avoid heatstroke with these sun safety tips

Heatstroke can happen when body temperature rises to dangerous levels and it isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. On average nationwide, 37 children die in hot cars every year from heat-related incidents. Nearly every state has experienced a child vehicular heatstroke death.

Community educators at CHOC Children’s recommend the following tips for avoiding heatstroke:

  • Never leave your child alone in the car, for any amount of time. In California it’s against the law to leave any child under age of six alone in a vehicle without a person who is at least 12 years old.
  • Teach kids not to play in cars, and kept your car locked so they can’t get in on their own.
  • Create reminders for yourself not to forget your child in the backseat of your car. Leave an important item in the backseat near your child, like a wallet or cellphone that is needed at your final destination.
  • If you notice a child alone in a car, call 911.

Parents can retain these tips by remembering to ACTAvoid leaving your child alone in the car. Create reminders, such as one that ensures you dropped your child off at daycare that morning. Take action- if you see a child alone in a car, calling 911 could mean saving their life.

Heatstroke symptoms include dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, hot and dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations. These symptoms can progress to seizures, organ failure or death if not immediately treated.

If a child is experiencing heatstroke, there are several things you can do while medical assistance arrives. Take the child to a cool place, remove as much of their clothing as possible, and apply cold packs or ice to areas with large blood vessels (neck, groin, armpits) to accelerate the cooling process.

Learn more safety information from CHOC’s community education department.

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How to Treat Poison Oak this Summer

Contrary to a common misconception, poison oak is a different nuisance than its counterpart, poison ivy. In southern California and throughout the West Coast, outdoor explorers can expect to find poison oak in wooded, brushy areas. In the northeast, you will find poison ivy, and in the southeast, poison sumac.

The best way to avoid poison oak is to stay on a path when outdoors this summer, since poison oak can be hidden in brushy areas. Wear long pants and socks, and avoid off-roading, advises Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician.

Poison oak causes a contact dermatitis that is spread onto the skin from the plant oils. A rash and itchy irritation are common side effects of a poison oak exposure. These plants cause a delayed reaction, so symptoms may appear anywhere from a few hours to a few days later, potentially creating confusion on their cause. The itching may last for a few days, and the rash may be apparent for up to two weeks. Unfortunately, while nothing will make the  red weepy rash go away faster, says Williamson, but topical calamine lotion may provide relief from the intense itching, which can last for a few days. Hydrocortisone cream may also alleviate symptoms, and can be used in conjunction with topical calamine lotion, she adds. For severe cases, oral antihistamines can help. Consult your pediatrician on specific questions related to any medication regimen.

If you think you have been exposed to poison oak, it is important to thoroughly wash anything that may be have been exposed to the plant oils which can spread to the skin if touched again:

  • Wash yourself and the clothes you were wearing at the time of exposure
  • Use soapy water to wash down your shoes, including laces
  • Wash or wipe down coat

It’s important for parents to remember that poison oak dermatitis, although inconvenient, is not contagious, so there is no reason to keep kids home from school if they have poison oak.

If the affected area becomes puffy, painful or at-home remedies do not alleviate itching, consult your pediatrician, as those may be signs of a skin infection. Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed. In rare cases, oral steroids may be needed.

Learn more safety tips to protect your family this summer.

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