4 Need to Know Sun Safety Tips

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Now that spring has officially sprung (and summer is just around the corner) I thought it would be a good time to talk about sun safety and sunscreen. In social media lately sunscreen has gotten a bad rap. People are worried about the chemicals in the lotions we use and causing harm to their child by applying them. But, the truth of the matter is NOT using an effective sunscreen will cause much more damage!

Skin cancer is a real problem and in many cases is related to damage from the UV rays from the sun. This damage starts when we are young and compounds on itself as we age. Sun damage not only causes many skin cancers, but, also is related to wrinkles, skin discoloration and burns that can result in pain and scars.

To protect yourself and your kids from the sun, I’d recommend the following four need to know things:

  1. Sun avoidance: stay in the shade when you can! Use big brimmed hats, long lightweight clothing or the shade of a building to keep yourself out of direct sunlight. The hours of
    10 a.m. to  4 p.m.  are when the sun is strongest and tends to cause the most damage. Remember, though, clouds don’t count as sun avoidance – you can still get burned through the clouds.
  2.  Sunscreen clothing: there are clothes that are SPF rated that are long sleeves/pants that you can have your child wear. These items are lightweight to allow your child to not overheat but also cover a large surface area of skin requiring less sunscreen lotions to be applied. Hats can also be SPF rated and should also be used to protect the scalp, face, and neck.
  3. Sunscreen lotions: SPF of 30-50 is what is recommended no matter your age (even young babies who are going to be in direct sun should be protected!). Proper application is key. You need to put a generous layer on any exposed skin (don’t forget your ears!) and reapply every 2 hours – especially if swimming/sweating. You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going in the sun to allow it to dry. At first, many sunscreens are white on the skin – that’s OK! Get it all over your skin, let it dry for 10 minutes and then wipe in any remaining white spots.
  4. Type of sunscreens: there are two types – physical blockers (which contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) and chemical blockers (which have chemicals that block the harmful UV rays from the sun). Use of physical blockers (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) may help to minimize irritation due to sunscreen use if your child has sensitive skin. Zinc oxide is the main ingredient in a lot of diaper rash creams (such as desitin) – you could even use this for a sunscreen if you didn’t have any other options!

I hope this helps you feel better about protecting your kids and your family from the sun’s harmful rays. We all want you to play outside, but in a safe way. Have a fun, sunny summer! As always, if you have any specific questions or concerns, feel free to call your pediatrician. Thanks for reading!

Safety First

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Keeping our kids healthy, growing and developing well and safe are major goals for parents. We discuss their health a lot on this blog and at their doctor’s visits. Their growth and development are key points to most well visits. So, for this blog, I’d like to talk about basic safety that might get overlooked or skimmed over at otherwise busy check-up appointments.

Newborns and Toddlers

  • Preventing falls: be careful with kids on beds, couches, around windows or stairs and on diaper changing tables – tumbles happen quickly and without notice – always keep a close eye and when in doubt put the baby on the floor where they can’t fall. Never use walkers with wheels as it makes for increased risk of a baby wheeling their way down a staircase or tipping over and hurting themselves.
  • Childproofing: this means putting up gates, locking cabinets and removing small or easily breakable (and swallowable!) items from children’s reach. Get down on the floor at their level to see what hidden dangers you might be missing. Be especially careful with cabinets that have potential poisons that babies can get to (cleaning products, medications, soaps/detergents, pest control, etc). If you have older kids in the home, make sure they know to keep their small toys away from the younger babies and toddlers to avoid choking risks.
  • Water safety: never leave a young child alone around water. This includes during bath time, in/around swimming areas (pools, lakes, retention ponds, etc), near buckets of water or any other source of collected water. Burns from hot water and drownings happen quickly and without notice. Always designate a “water watcher” to make sure an eye is kept on your little one at all times when around water. Set your water heater in your house to a max of 120°F to help prevent the likelihood of severe burns if water temps change quickly during bath time.

School Age Children

  • Outdoor safety: make sure your child knows to never go anywhere without parental consent (or escort). They should know to look both ways when crossing a street and hold a responsible person’s hand when crossing. Also, remind kids of stranger safety – never get in a car or go anywhere with a stranger no matter how nice they look, if they have a cool car, or if they are offering candy – be specific with your little one and make sure they know these specific tricks that a stranger may try to engage them with.Glowing Neon Safety Sign
  • Recreation: helmets are a must for any sport with wheels – this includes skateboards, bikes, scooters, ATVs, etc. All it takes is one head injury to spell disaster. Please make sure your kids have appropriately sized helmets for these activities. A helmet should fit snuggly and not move when your child nods their head. Make them “cooler” by allowing your child to decorate them with puffy paint or stickers so they are more likely to want to wear them. Feel free to add in elbow and knee pads while you’re at it too!
  • Bullies: make sure your child knows what to do if they or someone they know is being treated inappropriately. Designate a few people that they know to go to if they need to alert someone about these bad behaviors to help empower them to seek help in a safe and comfortable manner without delay.
  • Water safety: see above! Hopefully your child has had some type of swim exposure at this point to make sure they know how to be safe around water and swim/wade in water as well as float when needed.


  • Bullies: see above! Bullying can happen at any age – make sure your child is comfortable seeking help if needed.
  • Recreation: see above – helmets are still important!
  • Water safety: see above! Swim safety is a must at this age – floating and being comfortable in the water should be the minimum goal to shoot for.
  • Internet/phone safety: keep a close eye for these hidden dangers with parental monitoring apps and locks and discussing openly with your child internet/phone safety and expectations. Phones, tablets, computers and use of the internet is a privilege and should be treated that way. If your young adult knows these expectations from the start, safety can be more reasonably monitored. Lastly, no texting while driving! They should know this themselves and for their friends who are driving them around as well.
  • Alcohol, drugs, smoking: while this seems obvious, you have to start talking to your kids EARLY so they know from the beginning the dangers of these products. There is no safe amount of alcohol for a child, no safe cigarette, and no safe drug. Engaging in these behaviors at home with an adult monitoring them is no better. Be a good role model and make sure your young adult understands the danger that comes along with these risky behaviors. Make sure they know to never get in a car with someone who has had something to drink or has done drugs. Ensure they feel comfortable always talking to you as their parent to help them out of a situation like this in case they ever accidentally find themselves in harm’s way.
  • Communication: it is ever important to keep lines of communication open and honest between you and your tween/teen. If they feel comfortable talking to you as their parent, they are more likely to come to you if they get stuck in a risky situation. Make sure expectations are clearly discussed and rules are laid out and enforced. Be the person they can come talk to if they are in trouble and hopefully they’ll seek you out before things ever get bad.


Flaming Hot No-No’s!

Vrinda Kumar, M.D.

Vrinda Kumar, M.D.

Crunchy junk foods have always been tempting “treats” among young and old alike, and let’s be honest…we all indulge every now and then even though we know that these processed, fried, crunchy snacks are terrible for us. Over the past few years, however, there has been an evolution of this genre of foods that now involves the “Flamin’ Hot” flavors and other “flaming” or “spicy” flavors of cheese puffs, potato chips and even popcorn.

It turns out that these savory snacks may be the WORST of the worst snack foods, especially for our children. These spicy snacks contain cayenne powder in addition to the usual offenders found in crunchy junk foods (sodium, fat, oil, preservatives).

The spicy heat (cayenne) in these snacks release endorphins in the body, which are the same substances released by the body in response to exercise or in response to basically anything that makes the body feel good or makes us feel “warm and fuzzy.” Fatty/greasy foods do the same (which is why “comfort foods” are exactly that, ”comforting” and most of these tend to be unhealthy as well). When something causes the body to release endorphins, the body wants more of that thing. So, in turn, these fatty, fried, salty, spicy foods become ADDICTIVE.

Flamin’ Hot snacks are fried, salty, and spicy, so these tend to be REALLY addictive. The fact that these snacks are mostly fried, they can lead to significant weight gain quickly. The high sodium in these snacks can lead to high blood pressure, especially in children. The spice can cause stomach pain and gut irritation. Not only can this dangerous trifecta of fat, spice, and sodium cause/worsen symptoms of indigestion (acid reflux), but eating enough of these can cause gastritis (inflammation on the lining of the stomach). Severe gastritis can eventually lead to stomach bleeding or even ulcers.

There are a lot of unhealthy snacks surrounding us, and we should probably try to stay away from most, if not all, of them. With the rising popularity of spicy crunchy snacks, it is important to acknowledge that these, in particular, may be causing children significant
health issues and should be avoided completely.