Here’s how to protect babies and toddlers from the sun.
By Armin Brott
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Dear Mr. Dad: I thought I was doing the right thing by slathering my 1-year-old with sunscreen when we go outside, but I just read that the chemicals in sunscreen could be more harmful than the sun. Now what are we supposed to do?
A: Summer is winding down, but there are still plenty of sunny days ahead, so your question comes at a good time. For years, we’ve been programmed to practically marinate our kids in sunscreen before sending them outside. But recently, as you point out, the effectiveness — and safety — of that strategy is in question.
Before we get to the actual ingredients of sunscreen, let’s talk about the vocabulary, which can often be contradictory, confusing, or both. In June 2011, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) tried to deal with this issue by coming up with new regulations for sunscreen labeling, including requiring a “drug facts” box, forbidding claims such as “sunblock” or “waterproof,” and clarifying which products can be labeled “broad spectrum” (meaning that they protect against both UVB and the more deadly UVA rays). Unfortunately, these requirements don’t go into effect until summer 2012.
OK, back to ingredients. In a 2010 study, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit watchdog, reported that only 39 of the 500 sunscreen products they examined were safe and effective. The study claims sunscreens flaunt false sun protection (SPF) ratings, that one commonly ingredient, oxybenzone, is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can affect puberty, and another, retinyl palmitate (a derivative of Vitamin A), could actually accelerate some cancers instead of preventing them. But the emphasis needs to be on the word “could” as the research is hardly definitive.
The American Academy of Dermatology, for example, maintains that sunscreens — even those with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate — are safe for most people over the age of six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees, but recommends that babies under six months be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t wear sunscreen except in very small areas, such as their hands. For babies over six months, the AAP recommends sunscreen but says the best protection is limiting sun exposure — especially around midday — and wearing protective clothing, including a hat.
If you’re concerned about sunscreen chemicals, look for “chemical-free” or “mineral-based” brands that don’t contain oxybenzone.
These mainly use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient, both of which form an actual barrier on the skin without being absorbed and start working immediately upon application.
But don’t go overboard. In small doses, the sun is actually healthy. Those UVB rays help our bodies produce vitamin D which is essential for healthy immune systems and bones. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a few hours, you and your children need protection; if you’re just running around for 10 minutes, you should be OK (but check with your pediatrician to be sure).
Here’s how to protect babies and toddlers from the sun:
— Limit exposure to direct sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when rays are strongest.
— Use protective lightweight clothing to cover up, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (if they pull them off, keep putting them back on).
— If you’re not using a zinc or titanium blocks, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside so it has plenty of time to get absorbed into the skin. But regardless of the type of sunscreen, reapply every two hours or after swimming (no sunscreen is completely waterproof.)
— Don’t fear the sun.
A little every day is good for you.
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(Armin Brott is the author of “The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads” and “The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be.” Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.mrdad.com.)) 2011, Armin Brott
Hey parents! Have your kids join us July 29th for a pajama party while you enjoy a night out. The party will happen on the last Friday night of every month so you can enjoy a relaxing evening without having to worry about the kids. Drop off is at 5:00 pm with pickup any time before 10:00 pm. There are lots of games and activities for every child ages 4 to 12 years old! You must email Nicole Arcieri at email@example.com to reserve your spot by July 27nd!
5:00-6:00 Fun Zone (inflatables)
6:30-7:30 Mini Mac arts and games
7:30- 8:30 Field time
8:30-10:00 Popcorn and a Movie
Basketball Court Games:
– Red light, Green light
– Sharks and minnows
– Alien tag
– Line tag
– Freeze tunnel tag
– Dodge ball
– Relay races
Members: $35 for one child and $15 for each additional sibling
Non Members: $45 for one child and $20 for each additional sibling
* Each child MUST be potty trained. * Feel free to bring PJ’s/blanket/pillow/snacks.
Don’t just sit around the playground.
When my kids are at the playground, I’m usually the only parent making a spectacle of herself. I do push-ups and lunges. I hang from the monkey bars and try to pull myself up. Or I repeatedly squat down, lower my butt until it hits the bench and then stand up.
Yes, playground workouts can be embarrassing, especially when other moms and dads are relaxing or chatting on cellphones. But if you’re strapped for time, playgrounds are ideal workout spots, and not just because they’re free. You’re stuck there anyway, they’ve got all the equipment you need, and research shows even tiny bouts of exercise are associated with increased fitness.
And while a public workout takes some courage, “your actions might inspire a lifetime of health and fitness in your children or others,” said celebrity fitness trainer Marco Borges.
For some people, playground equipment may even be better than regular-size workout structures, said Borges. Monkey bars, for example, are built for kids so they’re shorter than regular pull-up bars. “That means you can start from a standing position and use your legs for added help,” said Borges, who runs a playground fitness boot camp.