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The Children's Wellness Blog

How to Safely Use Sunscreen for Your Child

June 5, 2017

How to Safely Use Sunscreen for Your ChildWith our beautiful summer weather, your child is probably excited to get outdoors to play and swim, especially now that most schools are out for the summer. But as a parent, you want to make sure they’re enjoying the weather in a safe and healthy way. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is sun protection. Everyone knows that sunscreen can protect children and adults alike from sunburns, skin cancer, and other issues caused by too much sun exposure—but only if it’s used correctly. That’s why our board-certified pediatricians and other providers at Children’s Wellness Center have put together a collection of sunscreen tips for parents.

  • Babies under the age of six months have very sensitive skin, so they should truly be kept out of direct sunlight. However, if you know they will be getting some sun exposure, use sunscreen on any exposed areas of their skin.
  • When you’re selecting a sunscreen for your family, use these guidelines:
    • Find a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (often labeled as “broad-spectrum”).
    • Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above. Studies have shown that it is not necessary to use a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30.
    • Look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “water resistant.”
  • For areas that are particularly sensitive to sunburns on a child like the nose, tops of the ears, and shoulders, use a sunscreen that includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
  • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before your child goes outside, to give the product the time it needs to absorb into the skin and become effective.
  • Use sunscreen every day before your child goes outside, regardless of the weather. As many as 80% of the sun’s rays can still get through clouds, even in the winter.
  • While it’s best to use a “water resistant” sunscreen, any sunscreen needs to be re-applied every 40-80 minutes (depending on the specific product), as well as after your child has been swimming or sweating.
  • Don’t assume sunscreen is your only defense against the sun. For true protection, combine proper sunscreen use with other summer child safety measures, such as these:
    • Keep as much of your child’s skin covered as possible in lightweight yet tightly woven clothing.
    • Look for clothing that is labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 or higher.
    • Have your child wear a hat with a three-inch-wide brim to shade the face, ears, and back of the neck.
    • Try to avoid taking your child outside between 10am and 4pm—the hours when the sun is at its strongest.
    • Have your child wear sunglasses that provide at least 99% UV protection.
  • Before you start using a new sunscreen for your child, put a little bit on a “test spot” of his or her skin to see if the skin becomes irritated. If so, try a different sunscreen. You may want to choose a hypoallergenic product like those offered by Neutrogena or Aveeno, especially if your child has sensitive skin or pediatric allergies.
  • Remember to protect your child’s lips, too, by using a lip balm that contains sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
  • There have been claims about toxic chemicals in sunscreen being absorbed through the skin. While you don’t want your child to ingest sunscreen, there have been no proven problems from proper sunscreen use, and yet the benefits of using sunscreen have been proven time and time again, so don’t shy away from sunscreen as long as you use it correctly.
  • It’s not a good idea to use a product that combines sunscreen with insect repellant for children. Sunscreen should be re-applied frequently, while insect repellant must be used sparingly for children, so to avoid getting too little sun protection or too much insect repellant, purchase these two products separately.
  • Remember to check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle before using it, and if you notice any clear changes to the consistency or color of the sunscreen, it’s time to replace it.

Parenting is all about finding balance. Too much sun exposure is harmful, but so is keeping your child indoors and away from the fun and refreshing exercise he or she can get outside. That’s why knowing how to properly use sunscreen is such a powerful tool—it lets your family enjoy the many benefits that the great outdoors have to offer while dramatically cutting down on the risks. If you have questions about your sunscreen use, contact Children’s Wellness Center for guidance. Or, for more child safety tips and health tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Home Remedies: Helpful, Ineffective, or Dangerous?

May 27, 2017

Home Remedies Parents Should AvoidAt Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), we’ve certainly seen evidence of the growing trend toward using as many natural products and foods as possible. For the most part, wanting to keep your child’s diet and routine as natural and wholesome as possible is wonderful, because we seem to be learning more and more every day about the dangers of certain processed foods and overmedicating. But unfortunately, not all “natural products” and “home remedies” are as safe or effective as they claim to be. As a parent, as good as your intentions are, it can be difficult to know what is truly the best for your child. So our board-certified pediatricians and other licensed providers are weighing in on some popular trends you should be cautious about.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is made from tiny particles of silver (yes, the metal used in jewelry) mixed into liquid. It’s been sold as a home remedy for nearly any illness you can imagine—bacterial infections, viruses, and even cancer and HIV/AIDS. However, the FDA has rejected colloidal silver. Not only is the product ineffective for treating any known medical condition, but it has been found to cause a number of potential health problems. The most common issue from ingesting silver is a condition called argyria, a blue-gray discoloration of the skin which, unfortunately, does not go away when you stop taking colloidal silver, and because no effective treatment has been found, the discoloration is usually life-long. In some cases, colloidal silver can also interfere with medications a child needs, like antibiotics and thyroid medicine, and in rare cases, it can also lead to kidney damage or seizures.

Menthol

While mentholated chest rubs can make a child feel like some of their congestion has been relieved by producing a cool sensation, research has shown that these rubs actually have little or no effect on cold symptoms. And sadly, these products do have potential problems. If they are incorrectly placed directly under the nose (as opposed to on the chest, back, or throat as instructed), they can irritate the airways and make breathing difficulties worse, especially for children with asthma. If they are accidentally or purposely ingested, they can have more serious health consequences.

Chiropractics for Allergies, Asthma, etc.

Chiropractics is a legitimate medical field that can treat a variety of issues with the musculoskeletal system. However, some chiropractors claim to treat problems that they cannot. While spinal adjustments can sometimes be effective in treating back pain, they cannot address other types of illness, like asthma, ear infections, allergies, or acid reflux. If your child is suffering from these or any other health conditions, be sure to schedule an appointment in our pediatric patient portal for a medical exam so we can treat the issue safely and effectively, or refer you to a qualified specialist if necessary.

Essential Oils

As one of the latest and most popular health trends, essential oils are now being used in homes everywhere. But even though they are a natural product, these oils are so highly concentrated that they carry some risks, especially for children. Because children and infants have thinner skin, they absorb topical products more easily. Some oils can have unintended harmful effects when they get into the child’s system. As one example, endocrinologists are concerned that lavender and tea tree oils may be endocrine disrupters, which can lead to precocious puberty. Children also tend to try to ingest essential oils, but they choke on the bitter taste, sending some of the oil into their lungs, which is particularly dangerous. If you do use essential oils, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Check to make sure all of your oils are safe for use around children. Certain oils are more dangerous than others, including tea tree, eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, clove, thyme, and wintergreen oils, and more.
  • Keep all of your oils in a secure place out of your child’s reach.
  • Do not use oils on or around children under two years old.
  • If you use topical oils, always dilute them heavily in a skin-safe “carrier oil” like olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, or avocado oil.
  • Keep oils away from a child’s airways.
  • Avoid using essential oils with vaporizers if your child or another family member has respiratory issues.
  • Do not use essential oils in teething recipes.
  • Never give essential oils to a child by mouth, or take essential oils by mouth if you are pregnant.

Honey

While honey is a go-to sweetener for parents who want to avoid processed sugars, it should never be given to babies less than twelve months old. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, honey can contain a specific type of spore that causes infant botulism in babies under one year old.

At Children’s Wellness Center, we have the same goal you do: seeing your child as healthy and happy as possible. While we respect the desire to give your child a more natural, wholesome life, you should do so with discretion, look for reliable medical sources, and seek the advice of a board-certified pediatrician before you try something new. If you have specific questions about home remedies, give us a call or schedule an appointment. For pediatrician-approved health tips and more, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Frequently Asked Questions about Electronic Devices and Kids

May 23, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Electronic Devices and KidsThese days, we’re surrounded by so much media throughout the day that it’s just an accepted part of day-to-day life. But for parents, exposing their child to digital media is a delicate balance. Restricting them from it entirely is impractical, and it’s actually not always the right choice, but giving them free reign throughout the internet can have a variety of negative repercussions. Our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics have a variety of recommendations to help you navigate the challenges of media and screen time for your children.

Should my goal be to keep my kids away from media as much as possible?

Many parents assume that the best policy is as little screen time as possible. But in reality, for children who are over two years old, media can provide many opportunities for your child to learn and even to bond with you. In truth, your goal should be to plan your child’s use of media so that it is done in a productive way and so that it does not interfere with sleep, childhood exercise, social interaction, or other important activities.

How much screen time is okay for my child?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children less than 18 months old do not use electronics other than video-chatting with long-distance family members. Between 18 and 24 months, if children are exposed to media at all, it should be high-quality and parents should watch with their children. For children ages 2-5, up to one hour of screen time per day can be permitted as long as it is high-quality programming that is watched with a parent. When children reach age 6, they may be able to be more independent with their media use, but you should still set very specific time limits and content rules for them.

How do I begin establishing rules for my children’s use of digital media?

There is certainly a lot to think about in terms of setting rules for your kids. A perfect way to get started is to use the AAP’s Family Media Plan tool. This helpful site guides you through the many types of rules to consider: time limits, media-free rooms, media-free times, online conduct, types of media permitted, etc. Setting media guidelines for your family should also involve detailed discussions of how to maintain privacy and safety online, and organizations like Savvy Cyber Kids are great resources for parents.

Is extra screen time okay if it’s spent using educational content?

While it’s great that you want to give your child as many educational opportunities as possible, time spent with education games and TV shows is still screen time, so it’s still taking away time they could be using for real-world educational experiences as well as physical exercise. There are also a few things to keep in mind regarding educational content. First, not every app, game, or video that is labeled as “educational” truly is, so you should try using the media first to check it out and make sure that it is productive and age-appropriate, that it falls in line with your personal values, and that it is not overloaded with distracting “bells and whistles.” Second, remember that while these programs may give a different perspective or an extra learning opportunity, they do not replace homework. So, in short, do not be too quick to trust educational content, and make sure that they still adhere to your child’s balance between screen time and other necessary activities.

How do I know if my child is spending too much time with digital media?

Too much screen time can have a number of unwanted effects. It can increase the risk of childhood obesity, reduce the amount and quality of sleep, limit the development of social skills, encourage children to dismiss homework or rush it and complete it poorly, and even promote aggression if the screen time is spent viewing violent content. If you notice that your child is beginning to struggle with any of these issues, reducing screen time and/or monitoring their media use more closely may be a good starting point.

Is it okay to use media as a way to keep my child calm?

It’s a good idea for any parent to have a number of tricks up their sleeve for calming their child in a potentially anxious situation. But it’s important not to rely on media as your only tool for doing this.

Are there specific times when I shouldn’t let my child use media at all?

The AAP does suggest establishing certain “media-free times” and “media-free rooms.” For instance, you may want to prohibit the use of digital media in the dining room or kitchen so you can enjoy dinners as a family, and in your children’s bedrooms so it doesn’t disturb their healthy sleep. You can also establish a rule that all cell phones, tablets, portable gaming devices, and other electronics need to charge in the parent’s bedroom each night, so that you know when they’re put away for the evening. And remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not having a television in a child’s bedroom.

How do I know the maturity level of the movies and TV shows my child is watching?

It’s a good idea to watch media along with your child so that you can know that it is appropriate and, if necessary, answer any moral questions it raises for your child. However, you can also use the show or movie’s rating as a guide. You can learn more about these ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Common Sense Media is another helpful organization. In addition to staying up-to-date on what your child is watching or using, you should be sure to use the parent control settings on your electronics themselves (tablets, phones, etc.) as well as your digital accounts (like your cable provider, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and more).

As a parent, your goal is to keep your child safe and healthy, and to prepare them for a happy and successful adulthood. Depending on how it is used, digital media can either bring you closer or farther from that goal. The key is planning ahead, finding balance, and keeping open lines of communication with your children at all ages. For more information about keeping your child healthy, visit the Children’s Wellness Center patient portal to schedule a well child appointment or simply give us a call for additional guidance. Or, for more health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 3: Outdoors

May 15, 2017

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 3 OutdoorsJust a quick web search for “childproofing” will give you countless ways to make your home safer. But as thoroughly as many parents prepare the inside of their home, they commonly overlook the largest area: their yard, garage, and other outdoor spaces. Our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center in Atlanta are passionate about keeping children safe and healthy, so we’ve put together a list of measures recommended by trusted sources (our own pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics) that you can take to help your children enjoy the outdoors safely.

  • Ideally, install a fence and make sure your child only stays within the fence, so that he or she cannot run out into the road. If a fence is not feasible, set a very specific border that your child understands not to cross, such as a certain seam in the driveway or a specific tree.
  • Children should be supervised by an attentive adult at all times when they are outside, even if they are only permitted to play in the back yard.
  • Some plants can actually be poisonous for children, so make sure all the varieties of plants in your yard are not toxic. It’s also a good idea to teach your child not to eat anything from a plant they’ve found outside, in case they encounter a dangerous plant at a friend’s house or at a park.
  • Make sure all pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other lawn care chemicals are in a locked cabinet that is out of your child’s reach. You should also make yourself familiar with the instructions on your lawn care chemicals about how long you need to keep children off your lawn after using the product.
  • If you have a grill, make sure it is secured when it is not in use so it will not tip and fall over. Teach your child not to touch the grill, and make sure propane grills are stored in such a way that your child cannot reach the knobs.
  • Go through the materials stored in your garage and identify any that are potentially dangerous for children, such as paint, antifreeze, gasoline, and most other automotive fluids. Lock these products in a secure cabinet your child cannot reach, and always remember to return the products to this cabinet as soon as you’re finished using them.
  • Keep all tools in a safe area where children cannot reach them, and make sure all power tools stay unplugged when they are not in use.
  • As with your grill, make sure all furniture in the garage or outdoors is not a tipping risk. If it could tip over and injure your child, secure it to the wall or the ground in some way.
  • If you have an automatic garage door, check that the automatic reversing system (which senses when a child is in the way of a closing door and stops the door from continuing to lower) is working properly. Remember to check this on a regular basis.
  • Try to keep your lawn as level as possible and fill in any unused holes in the soil.
  • If you have any type of pond, swimming pool, or fountain in your yard, make sure it is fenced in or blocked off in a way that your child cannot fall into it, and follow other water safety tips for children.
  • If you have a swing set or other playground equipment, follow these safety steps:
    • Surround the area with mats or soft fill materials (like shredded rubber or sand) and extend it at least six feet around the equipment.
    • If you are installing your own playground equipment, follow all instructions closely and make sure you install it on level ground.
    • Check occasionally for any loose nuts and bolts or other issues, and cap all bolts and screws.
    • Do not have any type of rope, clothesline, jump rope, etc. attached to playground equipment.
  • If you have a sandbox, make sure it is made from safe, intact materials. It is common to use old railroad ties, but these often have splinters and may contain unsafe chemicals as well.
  • Make sure any sandboxes are covered when they are not in use so they don’t bring in unwelcome insects or animals. However, if it rains outside, wait for the sandbox to dry out before covering it, because the moisture can leave bacteria growing in sandboxes.
  • If you are using sand around playground equipment or in a sandbox, try to avoid sand that contains tremolite. While manufacturers are not currently required to label sand as containing tremolite, the best choice is to only purchase natural river sand or beach sand, and to avoid sand that is made from crushed limestone, marble, or crystalline silica, as well as any product that looks dusty.
  • Although trampolines may be fun, even the proper safety equipment does not fully prevent injuries in children, so the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend having a trampoline at your home.
  • If you have a tree house, inspect it regularly for damage and wear, including splinters and loose parts, and make sure the tree it stands in is sturdy as well. Keep the boards close together, install a safety gate at the top of the ladder, and attach non-slip materials on the rungs of the ladder.

When you first begin looking around your home and making a childproofing to-do list, it can feel overwhelming. But just relax, take it one step at a time, and look for tips like those listed above that can let you know about tasks that may otherwise slip your mind. For more child safety advice, health tips, and more, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and schedule your child’s next well child visit with us via our convenient patient portal.

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