Summer is Here – Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen!

Summer is officially here! As the weather warms up and you and your family start spending more time outside, it’s important to keep sun safety in mind to ensure a healthy and happy season. Check out the following Q & A with CHOC Pediatrician, Mark Colon, M.D., for some great tips about sunscreen.

Q:  At what age can I begin putting sunscreen on my child, and what SPF is best for young children?

A:  A child is never too young for sunscreen. But it’s wise to keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight altogether. Their thin skin can burn after just minutes in the sun. Dress infants in lightweight cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a broad-brimmed hat for added protection.

Before using sunscreen, test a patch on your child’s back to make sure there’s no allergic reaction. Look for sunscreen that includes:

  • “Broad-spectrum” on the label. This means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
  • SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 for UVB protection, and 45 for babies.
  • The new UVA “star” rating. Four stars is the highest protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen, and the best for children

For sensitive areas, such as the nose, tops of the ears and the shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

While there are sunscreens made particularly for babies and toddlers, the most important thing to remember is that the higher the SPF and UVA stars, the better. For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. And remember to re-apply every two hours and after swimming.

A final note – just because your children are using sunscreen doesn’t mean they can stay in the sun all day. It just means they’re lessening the risks of sun damage.

Do you have any great sun safety tips? Post a comment and share!

Keep Your Kids Active This Summer

Although the official first day of summer is still a couple weeks away, kids in Orange County are already gearing up for summer, with school out starting next week! For parents this could mean trying to keep your little ones busy throughout their vacation. For some kids, summer can also be a time for packing on extra pounds if they don’t keep active.

A recent study suggests that for the youngest students, summer months may be worse than the school year when it comes to weight gain. Researchers think children may eat more during the summer, when the days are less structured. Also, physical education during the school year may help kids burn extra calories.

Just like adults, kids need to balance the calories they eat with the calories they burn to prevent extra pounds. That means healthy eating and an hour of physical activity on most days of the week.

Luckily, summer’s sunshine offers the chance to get out and get moving. Follow these tips to help keep your kids happy – and healthy – this summer:

  • Plan active vacations. Take a trip to the mountains and hike. Or, bike around your neighborhood.
  • Limit screen time—including TV and video games—to two hours a day or less. Encourage your kids to go outside and play. Hopscotch, swimming, tag and hide-and-go-seek all count as exercise.
  • If they’re interested, sign your kids up for a summer sports league.
  •  Walk with your family instead of driving to visit friends or run errands in the neighborhood.
  • To help strengthen your muscles, try working in the garden together.

Summer is coming – please practice water safety!

School is almost out, and I know that kids love to hit the pool, lake or beach during their summer vacations.  I urge all adults to follow the following water safety tips to ensure a safe and memorable summer:

  • Never leave children alone in or near water, even a shallow wading pool.  Children can drown in as little as one inch of water and it can happen in a matter of seconds. A child will lose consciousness two minutes after submersion, with irreversible brain damage occurring within four to six minutes.
  • Assign a “water watcher” who knows how to swim and can provide supervision of children in the water.
  •  Place pool safety barriers, such as isolation fences, self-closing and self-latching locks, and pool covers, between your child and the pool.
  •  Never assume your child is “drown-proof,” even if the child has had swimming lessons.
  • Place a phone, life-saving ring and shepherds hook at poolside.
  • Remove toys in and around the pool when it’s not in use to avoid any temptation for your child.
  • Drain waters from wading pools and water buckets when not being used.
  • Flotation devices, such as water wings, are considered toys and are not a substitute for adult supervision.
  • Water safety also includes sun safety.  Make sure your children are wearing waterproof sunscreen of at least SPF 30.  Protect feet from hot sand and sharp objects by having them wear water-safe shoes.

To learn more about water safety or to have a staff member from CHOC Children’s Community Education Department come to your group of parents and caregivers of children under the age of 5, please call 714-532-8887.  This program is generously provided by the CA Kids Plate Program.