Are you trapped in a summer heat wave?
I get questions every week from families about sunscreen, sun care, swimming (especially for children with ear tubes or those who get swimmers ear), and particularly loads of questions on infants under 6 months. Let’s break down common warm weather concerns and arm you with simple tips to surviving summer.
Sunscreen – The easy answer here is to make sure you’re purchasing ‘mineral based’ sunscreen only. The active ingredients should be Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide, or Avobenzone only. These have not been linked to hormonal disruption like the ingredient ‘oxybenzone’. (For more on this topic see EWG’s Report on Sunscreen Chemicals). Use sunscreen with spf 30 or greater, and get a stick sunscreen for under the eyes/tops of the ears/hair part/over the lips! I find this is much more easily tolerated than lotion on the face in little kids….. and adults….. Here’s the bad news, for those who don’t do this already: it takes 30min for sunscreen to be effective. Don’t ask me how you’re supposed to keep them in the shade for 1/2 an hour when you’re reapplying at the pool or beach, though ideally any time they’re eating they should be getting more sunscreen on. Or going to the bathroom, since that’ll easily take 30min if you have toddlers. Regardless, the very first application of sunscreen should be well before you plan on heading outside.
Hydration – How much water does my child need? Excellent question, and essential because an even mildly dehydrated child can’t cool himself off through sweat, and can’t always communicate their need to drink. Thankfully CHOC Children’s Hospital breaks it down very simply: children should drink the number of 8 ounce cups of water equal to their AGE, up to 64oz for ages 8 and older after that age. So, if your child is 1, then IN ADDITION to the milk/juice they drink, they should also have one 8oz cup of water. If your child is 5, then they should have 40oz of water a day. Under age 1? Breast milk and formula are primarily water, so while its ok to offer a few ounces of water in a sippy cup or bottle, your goal should be to offer more breast milk or formula if you’re out in the heat.
Swimming – swim safety is its own topic. I’ll keep it simple and say that you should never leave your child alone in or near water. Period. Outside of that inalienable truth, there are unique situations that some parents can face. One is ear tubes! Does your child have ear tubes surgically placed in their ear drums due to frequent ear infections? If yes, then have no fear. They can get wet. Please put ear plugs only if a) there is drainage from the tubes b) getting water into the tubes bothers the child [it can be an uncomfortable sensation for some] or c) if theres a risk for water getting into the ears at high pressure i.e. water parks! That’ll hurt or can even cause the tube to shift or dislodge. No bueno. While we’re on the topic of ears, I need to address swimmers ear. This is when the ear canal gets infected when water with bacteria gets trapped in the canal. It HURTS. There are ways to avoid this! I see this condition mostly in children who know how to swim and are spending more time jumping, diving, and swimming underwater. This is rarely a condition in infants (almost never) and toddlers. Two things you can do to prevent swimmers ear are to keep the ear canal free of wax and then to use ‘swimmers ear’ drops after swimming.
Babies under 6 months Here’s where it gets tricky. You want to be a part of summer traditions and vacations, yet your infant technically can’t even wear sunscreen yet. Super challenging. Thankfully the AAP – American Academy of Pediatrics – came out with clear guidelines here. Keep them out of direct sunlight, use sun rated rash guards and wide brimmed hats, and now you can apply a SMALL amount of mineral based sunscreen to the nose, backs of the hands, and tops of the feet. Focus on keeping them in the shade when outside, and only go outside before 10am and after 4pm. I hear you, its super restrictive. Its also a short season in their little lives, and think of all the napping you can do together while everyone else is outside!