Immunity, we know why we need it
The human body has an incredible defense system that works systematically to keep foreign invaders and nasty illnesses at bay. The immune system is this line of defense, but there are really several systems that play a role in your body’s immunity. Like just about everything, the immune system isn’t perfect and it can fail, and often does for some. There are many health conditions that can weaken immunity, along with poor health and lifestyle habits.
At this time of year, illness is much more common and frequent. The idea of boosting your immunity with this supplement or that drink mix seems enticing and makes a great marketing tool, however, we need to understand that the immune system is a bit more complex, as it isn’t a single function, but rather exactly as it is named: a system. For the immune defense of your body to do it’s job well, it needs balance and harmony. The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that all need to be in good health in order to contribute their role in keeping you healthy and thriving. In this article, we hope to help you understand that immunity “boosting” is really a lifestyle and that some of these tips can help you make wise choices for your family healthy and wellness this season. Keep reading!
Sleep is not overrated!
We were all born with the basic, physiological need for sleep, and for a great reason, without it, our bodies will shut down. It is common knowledge that a lack of sleep, especially on a regular basis, contributes to a box-full of health problems.Tests and studies have found that lack of sleep causes an inflammatory response which can then lead to an array of problems in itself. Also, it has been found that adequate sleep is critical to training the immune system’s response following vaccinations. Have you ever noticed that one of the symptoms of illness, with just about every kind you can get, is sleepiness? This is because our immune system is informing the brain to sleep more in order to strengthen itself to fend off the infection. Sleep is strength, and for many reasons, we need it! aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and for kids, 9-10. Luckily, with our shorter hours of daylight and fewer activities due to weather, this can more easily be done!
Sugar is sweet, but it isn’t nice!
Sugar is something we all know by now isn’t good for us, but do you know why? Let’s talk in regards to immunity, because we could be here all day with this one. Sugar can reduce your immunity up to 40% for about 7-8 hours following a moderate consumption. That’s quite a blow! Sugar seems to be squeezed into a large amount of our food products, so be careful about what you eat and start incorporating more fruits, but even more vegetables and proteins into your family diet. One of the best ways to incorporate more vegetables would be in soups, perfect for this time of year. Beans, onions, carrots, celery, spinach, kale, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. Make a big pot of soup with bone broth, garlic, seasonings, beans, rice, noodles, different meats… you get the idea!
For breakfast, you can make bowls of oatmeal and top with diced fruits and yogurt. Avoid breakfast cereals since they contain a lot of added sugar, not to mention the sugar content in milk combined. Though a natural, digestible and useable sugar, fruit is still sugar so try to limit your daily amount. If you get a sweet tooth, opt for naturally sweetened foods and try some of your own recipes at home and use less sugar than the measured amount. There are many great options for reducing sugar consumption and making healthier choices without opting for “no sugar” processed options which contain artificial sweeteners. Pinterest is a great tool for finding such recipes!
Exercise is a key player in building and maintaining your immune army. Sweating is one way the body eliminates toxins from the body, of those we eat, drink, and breath. Exercise is vital for so many reasons, but especially in immune function since movement promotes the circulation of lymph, also part of the immune system. Lymph moves rather slowly and requires movement to get going. Get your kids going by taking them to the park while the weather is tolerable, or take them to some indoor parks or gyms so they can move around with you. Aim for about 30 minutes a day, or even several times a week at the least.
There is no supplement for a poor diet, plain and simple. You are what you eat, as commonly said. Start by implementing a lot of plant foods, whole grains and proteins. Dark, leafy greens contain a lot of minerals and vitamins including magnesium, which is vital for bone and muscle health. It can be tough to get kids to eat vegetables, but soups might be your golden ticket here! While a good diet is a pillar to good health, sometimes we need help getting all the necessary nutrients our bodies need. This is where high quality supplements can be useful and sometimes necessary. It is always advised to seek medical advice on what supplements are needed for your family members, so please see your doctor.
Vitamin D – In our area of the Northwest, people are generally deficient in Vitamin D, most of the year. There is very little in food and there are only two ways we can get it, from the sun and from supplementation. Our bodies cannot produce it. As a fat soluble vitamin that can build up in the system, consult your doctor about yours and your family’s level and supplement accordingly.
Vitamin C – For immunity, Vitamin C is quite well known for getting over illness more quickly. Many vegetables such as colored peppers, oranges, kiwis, broccoli, and tomatoes are high in vitamin C. Orange juice isn’t a great source since it contains high amounts of sugar and is commonly made from concentrate, not real juice. If you can find real juice with no additional sugar, moderation is key!
Probiotics – are necessary for gut health, which makes up about 70% of our immune system! Good and bad bacteria are both present in the colon and need to remain balanced for good health. Taking a probiotic can keep the balance and eliminate some of this bad bacteria which improves the overall health and immune response of your body. Talk to your doctor about what probiotics are good for you and your kids.
As a parent, the healthy of our kids is always a forethought, especially now that fall is here and cold weather is settling in. While working on these 4 S’s is a good practice for improved health, all year, it isn’t a guarantee for a sick-free season. We still get sick, but when you do and your health is relatively good, chances of remaining sick are far less! Stay tuned for our next article about some habits you can teach your kids to stay healthy and happy at school!
Asthma and What it Means for Oral Health
Asthma affects around 1 of 10 children, and those numbers seem to be climbing in recent years. Patients with asthma taking medications have an increased risk of cavities, bad breath, and gum problems since they tend to be mouth breathers. Medications such as corticosteroids can reduce saliva flow, causing a dry mouth which further causes the bad breath. Since saliva has a cleansing effect in the mouth, ashtmatic children can then be more susceptible to cavities. If thorough and consistent care isn’t taken, this could then lead to gum disease. With this, it is important to remain under routine dental care and regular visits if your child has asthma and requires medication. Dental care does stay relatively the same, depending on the severity of your child’s condition and their triggers for asthmatic attacks. Asthma is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, based partially on the regularity and intensity of symptoms during daytime, exercise resistance, and symptoms during night-time.The goal in managing a patient with asthma is to prevent an acute asthmatic episode during the routine cleanings or other dental procedures such as fillings. When you visit the dentist, be sure to let the hygienists and the dentist know about current medications, changes in the doses or frequency, and your child’s triggers for attacks.
We know that dental visits should start at the first eruption of a baby tooth. Cultivating a positive relationship with your child’s dentist is not only vital for every child, but especially those with asthma since anxiety of others is a common cause for asthma episodes. Studies have proven that the most important factor in overcoming dental anxiety is good dentist-patient communication. So, how can you help your child overcome and work through anxiety?
- Schedule the appointment for the morning, while they are alert but still relaxed and before any events of the day might cause stress. If your child seems more relaxed in the afternoon, by all means schedule for the time that is most comfortable and accommodating for you and your child.
- Give yourself ample time for the appointment, don’t schedule on a day you might be rushed.
- Give your child a higher protein breakfast which has a calming effect. Avoid sugary foods such as cereal and pancakes with syrup.
- If your child needs asthma medication prior to the appointment, encourage them to drink some water to minimize the effect of it on their teeth. This would also be a good routine practice.
- Bring your child’s inhaler to the appointment in the event your child has an attack. Better to have it and not need it!
- Bring earplugs if excessive noise might be a problem and your child is comfortable with them. We also have head phones in our office for noise
- Distractions. Our staff is well trained in keeping children distracted from the procedure. If you have something your child would be well distracted with such as a stuffed animal or picture, bring it with you!
- Encourage your child to take deep breaths if this is okay for them or as much as they are able. Have them breath with you.
- Listen to some fun music they like in the car on the way to the appointment.
- Reassure your child that the dentist help their teeth stay strong and healthy!
In preparation for your appointment and to keep your child’s thoughts positive about dental care, also try to avoid conversations with others who fear the dentist or who had bad experiences with the dentist. Keep positive reinforcement going and let your child form their own opinion about visiting the dentist according to their own experience. Along with preparing your child for their visit to the dentist, we ask that you would prepare the dentists and hygienists as well! Of course, depending on the severity of your child’s asthma, be prepared with the following information:
- First, let your dentist know about the asthma prior to the appointment and upon arrival. Include information about when they were diagnosed and the severity of it
- Give your child water to drink before the appointment to help cleanse their mouth.
- Tell your dentist about medications they are currently taking and how often, how much
- Explain how you handle asthma attacks and your child’s common triggers and the time of the last attack.
- Explain your oral care routine of your child’s teeth
- Keep the office updated about medication changes or condition changes so that care can be altered accordingly
Tips on caring for your child’s teeth
Between appointments, there are some tips we have for you to maintain your child’s oral health and some things to keep in mind. Depending on the kind of medication your child needs to manage asthma symptoms, it is very important to give your child water immediately after taking the medication. The mouth is the fist to have contact with medication and that is the reason for the higher risk of dental complications. Water will reduce the amount of medication that sits on the teeth and will have the cleansing effect that might be missing from decreased saliva production.
Brushing teeth regularly is a must as some dry powder inhalants contain some sugar in order to make the medication tolerable. We know that sugar is quite destructive to the enamel and the surface of the tooth, so frequent brushing is needed. Also, depending on the frequency of medication, it might be advised to have your child brush three times daily.
While dental care may not be too different for children with asthma as it is for those who do not, it is a condition that your dentist will need to know about in detail in order to reduce the likelihood of an attack during routine visits. Keeping your dentist updated about your child’s physical well being and emotional state regarding the dental chair will further help us to help you and keep those smiles bright!
Sunlight is both beneficial and hazardous to our skin. Sunshine aids vitamin D absorption and helps boost and energize your mood! It can also burn your skin and lead to cancer later in life without proper protection. With the skin being the largest organ of your body and the most sun-exposed, sun protection is crucial for everyone, particularly during the summer months, but year round is necessary depending on your lifestyle.
We know how important sun protection is, but how can you know which products are safe and suitable for your family? While you can enjoy some fun in the sun, let’s be smart about it this summer!
WHAT YOU SEE, WHAT YOU GET
The sun emits two kinds of rays, UVA and UVB, or Ultra Violet rays. Type A is a long wave ray which penetrates deeper into the skin causing spots, wrinkles, and premature aging. UVA rays are present year round and are more abundant than UVB rays. Type B rays are shorter wave rays which cause burn and tan on the skin. UVB rays are also more intense during midday, summertime months, at higher altitudes, and closer to the equator. This type also assists the body in making vitamin D.
Sun protection comes in two forms: chemical and physical. Physical sunblock deflects UV rays while chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin, thus absorbing and scattering the rays. SPF (sun protection factor) is also a key player in sun protection; with numbers ranging from about 15 spf to 100.
Sunblock incorporates physical ingredients that actually block the sun, both UVA and UVB. It is usually a much more dense lotion than a sunscreen. The main active ingredients should be minerals known as Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, or both combined. Zinc oxide is also the main ingredient in diaper rash cream and is soothing to the skin.
Sunblock might be a better option for your family if you have a member with sensitive skin or for babies, because zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less irritating than other ingredients found in sunscreen. Sunblocks can leave a white cast, due to the opaque nature of the minerals, and could be a bit more difficult to apply since they are thick. Combining with a lotion can help with the application.
Sunscreen consists of chemicals which absorb into the skin and absorb UVA and UVB rays. Because of the absorption dependency, sunscreen needs to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure to become effective, as specified on the bottle. Some of the most common chemical sunscreen ingredients include: Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, and Helioplex.
Sunscreen is usually runny and less opaque, applying fairly clear. Sunscreens are also available in aerosol sprays. Chemical sunscreens can cause irritation and are more prone to cause allergic reactions, so be sure to test a small spot on your child’s inner elbow.
Sunscreens are easily applied and can offer longer protection.Sun block and sunscreen are often combined for both topical in internal sun protection benefits.
SPF numbers can often be a determining factor in choosing a sunscreen. SPF ratings measure the time you can remain in the sunlight before burning with sunscreen on, compared to being without it. When looking for an SPF, look for one that is also water resistant, as most are today. Sunscreen should still be reapplied ever 1-2 hours for optimal protection since no sunscreen is fully waterproof or sweat proof.
Looking at the numbers can be a bit confusing, but don’t get caught up on what number might be best. Higher SPF doesn’t mean more protection than lower SPF, nor does it mean you can go longer periods of time before reapplying. Lower SPF can give just as much protection as a higher SPF, for example, SPF 30 blocks about 97% of rays while an SPF 50 will block about 98%. Choose a sunscreen no lower than SPF 30 and no higher than SPF 50.
Be sure to look for a sun pretection product that is braod spectrum, meaning that it guards against both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide in sunscreens and sunblocks alike is one of the best and most potent forms for blocking UVA rays. Choose one that contains at Zinc oxide alongside Titanium dioxide or other chemical sunscreens.
Vitamin D deficiency and how much time is okay without skin protection:
The body needs vitamin D to absorb phosphorus and calcium from food. These minerals are essential for healthy bones and organ function. Short periods of sun exposure (about 10 to 15 minutes for people with lighter skin). daily with no sunscreen amid the summer months (April to October) are adequate for most individuals to make sufficient vitamin D. Studies suggest that the most productive time of day for vitamin D to be produced is between 11am and 3pm.
Nano-particles (mineral sunblock)
Nano-particles refer to the particle size of the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. In terms of diameter, fine particles cover a range between 100 and 2500 nanometers, while ultra-fine particles are sized between 1 and 100 nanometers.
The smaller the particle size is, the superior the SPF protection is. Nano particles are used primarily to eliminate the thick white cast that is often an inconvenience with mineral sunblocks as well as provide lasting protection. While this may seem like a good choice, studies are finding that nanoparticles are small enough to penetrate cell membranes, rendering them potentially harmful.
While it is still in debate, minerals in sunblock should be non-nano particles. Non-nano means that the particle size of the minerals is larger than the skin pore, allowing it only to sit on the skin surface.
- Which type (chemical/physical) is best for babies, kids, and different ages and activities?
It’s recommended to choose a physical (or chemical-free) sunscreen which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Also, its recommended to limit sun exposure for babies under 6 months. When that’s not possible, protect your baby’s skin with sunblock and a beach hat.
- How much should you apply?
To ensure that you get the full protection of a sunscreen, you need to apply at least 1 oz for your body – about a shot glass full. Most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than the advertised amount, which also means less protection. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle, that is quite a bit!
Apply your sunscreen about 30 minutes before heading outside to allow time for it to bind or absorb into your skin. Reapply at least ever 2 hours and every hour for intense activity that causes perspiration. Apply immediately after swimming.
Protecting ourselves from the damage of the sun is more important today than every before. The UV radiation is more intense today than in years past, so be sure to grab your sun protection of choice, stay hydrated, and wear protective, breathable clothing when you head outside! We hope this information about sun protection products can help you chose the best option for your family.
With summer just about here, your children are likely to be active in sports and other fun activities such as summer camps. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle, but be sure not to neglect the importance of protecting your child’s teeth by properly using a mouth guard.
There’s no doubt that children are highly susceptible to tooth loss or other kind of oral injuries during sports and play. Even when they sleep at night, some present signs of abrasion and wear caused by the constant grinding of their teeth together. To ensure that your child’s teeth are protected from damage in any of these situations, many dentists suggest that you get your children mouth guards for sports or night guards for sleep.
You Can Find These Mouth Guards in Three Varieties
- Ordinary mouth protectors are prefabricated and ready to wear. They are low-priced and can be acquired at most stores that have sporting goods, specialty health stores, and online. However, they can be a challenge to adjust to fit, they are often bulky due to generic fit, make speaking and breathing difficult, and they bring little or no safety. These types of mouth guards are not typically recommended by dentists, but they can work in a pinch.
- Boil and bite mouth guards may also be acquired from sporting goods stores, and can offer a superior fit as compared to ordinary mouth guards. The “boil and bite” mouth protectors are made from a thermoplastic material that is placed in boiled water to soften, then introduced in the mouth and molded around the teeth using tongue and finger pressure.
- Personalized mouth protectors are individually created and produced in a dental office or a specialized laboratory following your dentist’s instructions. First, your dental practitioner will make an imprint of your child’s teeth and a mouth protector is then shaped over the mold using a special material. By using the special material and due to the supplemental time and work, these personalized mouth guards are more expensive than your other options, but it grants the most protection and comfort.
Who Needs a Mouth Guard?
Mouth protectors may be used by anyone – children and adults – who play sports that involve physical contact such as boxing, basketball, soccer, football, ice hockey, field hockey or lacrosse. However, even those playing sports without contact(such as gymnastics) and any recreational exercise (e.g.mountain biking, skateboarding) that may present a risk of harm to the mouth can benefit from using a mouth protector.
Adults and children who grind or clench their teeth at night should wear a night guard made to avoid tooth injury.
While mouth guards for play and sleep are useful in preserving tooth integrity for all ages, choosing a suitable one for your child finally concentrates on balancing cost with comfort.
The ideal mouth guard must:
- Allow talking and not restrict breathing.
- Stay firmly in place amid action.
- Provide a high rate of fit and comfort.
- Be long lasting and easy to clean.
- Be resilient, tear-resistant, odor-free and flavorless.
Mouth guards will take care of your children’s teeth while they enjoy their favorite sports, so you won’t have to worry any more about injuries.
If you or your child have suffered from occasional pain in your jaw joints, such as tightening or a sore sensation when you talk or chew, you are not alone! At some point, everyone experiences some pain in their jaw, because it is the most constantly used joint in the body!
What is TMJ?
The Temporomandibular (TMJ) joint is the primary joint in your face that allows you to talk, chew, and open wide for the dentist. It’s hard to miss, it is the joint connecting your jaw to your skull. To feel these joints in action, simply place your fingers in front of your ear and open your mouth. What you feel is the rounded end (the joint) of the lower jaw roll along the the joint socket of the temporal bone connected to the skull. The temporal bone also contains the inner ear and the temple, which is why you can feel your ears “pop” sometimes when you open your mouth.
On average, people speak thousands of words a day, each one requiring movement of this joint. Thankfully, we don’t need WD-40 like a squeaky door when its had a lot of use. We do, however, get sore and over exerted muscles that make communication or family dinner a painful task. Oftentimes, the symptoms will reside in a few days with a little relaxing of the muscles. Other times, people can develop more intense, ongoing pain. This is referred to as Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) or a TMJ disorder and requires some corrective treatment.
How Can I Get TMJ?
TMJ doesn’t have any known direct causes but, rather contributing causes. Strain of the soft disc between the joint and socket can cause wear or displacement of the joint, often leading to TMJ disorders. Grinding and clenching of the teeth can cause misalignment of your bite and wear on the muscles used for chewing. Many people are unaware that they clench or grind their teeth, whether it is a coping mechanism for stress or a sleep habit.
With that being said, stress is a common cause for TMJ disorders since people tend to tighten the muscles or grind their teeth when they undergo physical and mental stress alike.
Dental problems, such as poor teeth alignment, arthritis, muscle problems, a malformed TMJ, or injury/trauma, can also contribute to TMJ disorders.
Do I have TMJ?
The symptoms associated with TMJ are often severe and pronounced, since this condition affects a significant part of daily functions such as talking and eating. Some of these symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw joint, face, and even through the neck and shoulders
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide, like a stiff hinge
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening, closing, or chewing (which may or may not be painful)
- Exhausted feeling in the face, muscle fatigue
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the the teeth are not aligning
- Heat and/or swelling in the joint area
Other symptoms that may be a result of TMJ disorders include headaches, dizziness, tooth aches, numbness, earaches, neck pain, or ringing in the ears. If these are symptoms either you or your child experience, talk to your dentist about how they can be corrected.
What Can I Do About It?
First things first, Let your dentist know; the sooner TMJ problems are addressed, the better. If you suspect you or your child may have a TMJ disorder, your dentist will do an exam and may order imaging, such as x-rays or an MRI, to look at the joint and confirm the condition.
If symptoms are moderate or occasional, treatment may not be needed and it could be a matter of resting the jaw muscles for a couple days. You may wonder how its possible to “rest” the most commonly used joint in your body! Focus on maintaining a relaxed state, try not to clench or grind your teeth and massage the joint area as long as there is no swelling. Here are some tips to go about treatment for TMJ disorders:
- Ask your dentist about exercises and relaxation techniques you can do to relive tension, practice them as instructed.
- Application of ice packs or heat may help relieve discomfort.
- For pain and swelling, try taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Aleve). Your dentist can prescribe a higher dose if needed.
- Eat foods that are soft, avoid those that may aggravate the TM joint (steak, apples, taffy, etc).
- For clenchers and grinders, muscle relaxants can greatly help, but are available by prescription only.
- Use a night guard to prevent clenching and grinding at night.
- Restrain from opening your mouth too wide, forcing the joint to pop, and excessive chewing motions such as chewing gum.
- Talk to your dentist about corrective dentistry. This includes braces, crowns, or bridges to properly align and balance the biting surfaces of your teeth.
- Keep your teeth slightly apart in order to relieve tension on the TM joint.
In sever cases of TMJ disorders, surgery or invasive techniques may be required if common corrective dentistry is not enough. Most always, TMJ disorders can be corrected by your dentist and most kids don’t need surgery.
To Put Things In Place
Many people, particularly children and young adults, develop TMJ disorders or occasional joint pain due to unconscious habits of grinding and clenching. You can control these habits or help your children by making them aware of the habit and instruct them on how to stop. Teach children to recognize when they practice this bad habit (at school during a test, when angry or upset, etc.) so they can consciously put an end to it. Ask your dentist for tips on how to nip this habit in the bud and if any corrective dentistry work is needed. Braces have often been the hero for those who struggle with persistent TMJ pain by greatly reducing or even eliminating the problem all together! No one should live feeling like they got a punch in the face, talk to your dentist about putting things back in place.
Seasonal Influenza Vaccine
This is the time of year when kids start getting sick. With the start of school and the change of climate, parents and caretakers begin to think about vaccines and Flu prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released an updated influenza vaccine recommending that all children, 6 months and older, receive the influenza vaccine.
The updated policy recommends that children are immunized against the influenza with either the trivalent or quadrivalent vaccine once it is available. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against one additional strain of the virus, but neither vaccine is preferred over the other. The vaccine composition for the 2014-2015 season is unchanged from last year for either strain.
Optimal protection is achieved through annual immunization. Antibodies from previous year vaccinations wittle to 50 percent of their original levels, 6 to 12 months after vaccination. Although the vaccine strains for the 2014-2015 season are unchanged from last season, a repeat dose this season is critical for maintaining protection in all populations.
A special effort should be made to vaccinate people in vulnerable groups, including children with chronic health conditions, children of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage, health care personnel, child care providers and staff, women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, are in the postpartum period, or are breastfeeding, and household contacts and caregivers of children in high-risk populations.
These recommendations from the Academy are just that, it is up to you to choose your plan of flu-preventative action for you and your family. Here are some practical steps that you can take now to prevent the cold and flu in your home:
- Cover your cough and sneeze! It starts with a tickle, a prickle, an itch: Achoo! Cover up that sneeze to avoid spreading flu germs.
- Wash your hands, the right way! Scrubbing germy hands is one of the top tips for preventing spread of the flu.
- Wash your hands frequently, know when to wash. Rubbing your eyes, nose, or mouth is a sure-fire way to get the flu.
- Keep in good health, get some sleep, and stay hydrated. When you’re in good health, your immune system is stronger. So keep yourself in top health this flu season — and throughout next year!
Stay tuned for further information and discussions about vaccines and taking care of your family this cold and flu season!
Finding the Right Sunscreen for Your Family
Sunscreen, sunblock, sun lotion: it all does the same thing, it protects your delicate skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Children are more susceptible to burns because their skin is fresh and unaccustomed to the sun’s rays. Dermatologists say it takes just one severe burn to possibly double your child’s chances of developing skin cancer later in life. Whoa! This is serious business! Every year, sunscreens and tanning lotions stock the shelves, but it seems like the options continue to grow and labels can be confusing. How can you decide which one will suit you and your family’s lifestyle?
Before you Shop
First, there are important tips to take into consideration when shopping for a sunscreen. SPF (sun protection Factor) levels, ingredients, and formulation (lotion, spray, waterproof, sweatproof), are key things to not only consider, but also research before you begin the “screening” process. Another important tip is that sunscreen does expire, so if you have a bottle in your drawer from last summer, toss it, because the ingredients lose effectiveness over time. The lifespan of sunscreen is about one year, so plan on shopping for a new sunscreen each summer.
What to Look For
SPF factor is the first thing we typically notice, its the large number ranging from 15 all the way up to 75 or even 100.. SPF refers to protection from UVB rays, which cause burns, rather than UVA rays, which cause the long term damage. The number rating is the measure of time it would take for a sunburn to occur without sunscreen, compared to the lotion on. Lotions generally start at SPF 15. You want a sunscreen that will provide adequate protection so choose one with an SPF 30 or higher, depending on your usual sun exposure and where you live. For people who live in higher altitudes or closer to the equator, it is recommended to have a higher SPF. For every 1000 feet of altitude, there is a 4% increase in the sun’s ultraviolet rays! What about SPF’s of 50-100? Do those provide more protection? Not really. Level 15 is shown to block 94% of rays and level 30, 97% of rays; however, level 50 is shown to block 98% so you’re not doubling protection with twice the level. No sunscreen can block 100% of solar energy. So any product labeled higher than SPF 50+ offers less than 1% of additional protection beyond 98%.Opt for a level 30, which is the most recommended by dermatologists. Lower levels also tend to be less expensive for equal amount of protection. Look for a sunscreen that is also labeled “broad spectrum” to block against both UVB and UVA rays. These sunscreens are sometimes more difficult to find, but new FDA standards are making them easier to find then they were even a couple years ago. The find is well worth the extra protection for you and your family’s skin!
Most of us applying sunscreen will be sweating or swimming, so it is important to pick sunscreen that is water/sweat resistant. The FDA has recently regulated labels to no longer claim “waterproof” or sweat proof” since no sunscreen is actually “proofed”. Products are allowed, however, to claim 40 or 80 minutes resistant. The FDA defines water resistant sunscreen as having an SPF level able to hold 40 minutes after being in the water, and 80 minutes for those with a higher SPF than 30. With this in mind remember to reapply no matter what type of formula you choose to use!
Spray on sunscreens are convenient, however, Consumer Reports has recently warned against their use due to the risk of inhaling the product. These sunscreens are expelled in a fine mist and may also not provide enough coverage, especially if it is windy. If you opt for sprays, it is recommended to spray it into your hand and rub it into the skin like lotion. Also avoid spraying these into the face. With any formula you choose, follow the instructions for application and be sure to give it time to dry and bond to the skin before heading out to play.
Children and babies have more sensitive skin which is easily irritated by chemicals in some sunscreens. If you’re not a label reader then this is one product you may want to take the time to read. Try to avoid sunscreens with these common chemical irritants: para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). aveobenzone, homosalate and octisalate. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are minerals. Choosing a children’s sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is the safest bet since they sit atop the skin, without becoming fully absorbed like chemical ingredients.. For babies under 6 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they be kept out of the sun altogether. For children just over 6 months, sun exposure should be limited.
Try not to get caught up in brands. Spend some time looking at what ingredients each brand uses (Banana Boat, Coppertone, Ocean Potion, Neutrogena, Aveeno etc.) and keep your preferences in mind. Many store name/generic brands cost less and are basically the same product in different packaging, so read the labels!
After Your Purchase
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge you need to buy a safe sunscreen for you and your family, remember that sunscreen is only a small part of keeping safe outside under the sun. Wearing Ultraviolet safe glasses, hats, protective clothing, and staying inside or limiting exposure during peak UV hours (10am – 4pm) is critical in protecting your skin from sun damage!
Children’s Safety: Swimming
There is perhaps no better summertime activity than going swimming. Whether you frequent a community pool or hit the beach instead, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in cool water on a hot day. While a day at the pool is a relaxing activity for most, when you have little ones, being around water can be nerve wracking. Here are some statistics to illustrate the importance of careful poolside practices along with some tips to help you develop safe water habits with your little ones.
Children under the age of 14 are at risk for unintentional drowning. On average, within the United States alone, ten people die from drowning accidents every day. About 1 in 5 of those are children under the age of 14. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest rate of drowning and, more often than not, these accidents happen in home pools. The greatest factors contributing to these numbers are:
- a child not knowing how to swim
- a home pool being unfenced
- a lack of supervision
- failure to wear an appropriate life jacket or floating device
- alcohol use among supervising adults
Here are some of the most basic and effective ways to ensure that you and your family stay safe whether at the pool or the beach this summer:
Get them into Swim Lessons:
Teaching your child to be comfortable in water is the first step. You’ll need to assess when each child is ready, but getting them in lessons as early as possible is advised. Make sure they know how to tread water and float before allowing them in the water by themselves. Keep them in the shallow end of the pool or in any designated kid’s zones. Make sure that they know not to go in the water unless an adult is present. Or, if they’re a bit older and you feel confident in their abilities, teach them to use the buddy system and always have someone with them while swimming. While it’s important for them to recognize that precautions should be taken, they should also know that water is not something to be afraid of.
If your child has been primarily in pools and is going to a lake or to the ocean for the first time, help educate them on the differences of swimming out in the open. Teach them about currents, undertow, uneven surfaces, etc. to make sure they’re prepared for the differences.
There is nothing more important than making sure your full attention is on your children at all times when they are near or in water. If your children are still infants or toddlers, you shouldn’t be more than an arm’s length away from them. Be sure that you remove any distractions while you’re monitoring children in water so that you can jump in and help immediately if necessary.
Pool parties, while fun, can be some of the most dangerous environments for little swimmers if they are not handled properly. If there are numerous adults around, it’s important to always have at least one adult designated to watching at all times. Don’t make the faulty assumption that someone else is watching your children. Set up a rotation system so that one parent doesn’t get too worn out. This will keep everyone’s eyes fresh and still make sure that the kids always have an active watcher.
Teach About the Dangers of Pools:
While pools may seem harmless enough, it’s important to remember that things such as water jets, drains, and filtration systems can pose a threat to hair and little fingers and toes. Teach your kids to stay away from drains or outlets that may have suction. Anything that could prevent them from being able to come up for air should be avoided. Children’s wading pools or smaller pools with only a singular drain pose the greatest threat for hazardous suction. If you’re installing a hot tub or pool, make sure that the draining systems are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act.
Should an accident occur, nothing is more valuable than proper CPR knowledge. Mere minutes can make a huge difference if a child has swallowed water. Local hospitals, fire departments, or community colleges offer CPR classes regularly. Make it a family outing and have the kids learn CPR as well. It is an invaluable tool that could save a life!
If you have a Home Pool:
If you already have a pool in your backyard, make sure that every safety precaution possible is in place. A pool fence should be at least 4 feet high and should have a secure, self-latching gate. This will keep you from having to remember to latch it every time you leave the pool area. If all you have is an inflatable pool, make sure you empty out all water after you’re done using it. Store the pool upside down to ensure there is no water left inside. Whether you have an in ground pool or merely an inflatable one, consider installing an alarm or attaching a bell to all outside doors to monitor children’s whereabouts .
Being aware of the dangers that pools and bodies of water can pose is the first step to achieving safe water practices. Take every precaution to ensure that water-focused playtime can remain carefree. Remember that educating yourself and your children is the most important decision you can make when it comes to maintaining your child’s safety. Put these suggestions into practice to give yourself some peace of mind this summer. Happy swimming!