Category: Health Library

Why Have We Let High-Powered Magnets Be a Hazard to Our Kids for so Long?

We have been warning parents about high-powered magnets since 2007!

That’s when the first complaints started coming into the Consumer Product Safety Commission about kids swallowing small magnets that were falling out of toys or that were actually sold as toys to create patterns and build shapes.

Remember Buckyballs and Buckycubes?

The CPSC issued their first safety alert about magnets in 2007, after a 20-month-old died.
The CPSC issued their first safety alert about magnets in 2007, after a 20-month-old died.

They issued another magnet safety alert in 2011, when they found that incidents of children ingesting these high-powered magnets were increasing each year, with reports of 22 incidents between 2007 and 2009, including 11 of which required surgical removal of the magnets.

Next, in 2012, we heard about a 3-year-old who required emergency surgery after swallowing 37 magnets!

High-Powered Magnet Dangers

Unfortunately, when kids swallow more than one of the small, 5mm magnets, they can attract each other through the walls of the child’s intestine. And this is what happened to the little girl who swallowed 37 Buckyballs. She required emergency surgery to repair perforations in her stomach and intestines.

Call poison control or seek immediate medical attention if your child swallows a magnet.
Call poison control or seek immediate medical attention if your child swallows a magnet.

This led to a recall of Buckyballs, but surprisingly, their importer, Maxfield & Oberton LLC, refused to participate in the recall, even though the CPSC “has received 54 reports of children and teens ingesting this product, with 53 of these requiring medical interventions.”

Another death, a 19-month-old girl and an estimated 2,900 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2013 led the CPSC to create a new safety rule for high-powered magnet sets.

Unfortunately, a Federal Court put aside that safety rule, so that you can still buy these dangerous high-powdered magnets.

And many of you likely did, as Christmas gifts.

And some of you have likely already been to the ER after a child in your home swallowed those high-powered magnets.

Be warned. If you have kids in the house, those “Mashable, Smashable, Rollable, Buildable Magnets” could end up in their mouth and getting swallowed.

Remember, as we have been warning folks for at least 10 years, even though they are sold as “Magnetic Toys,” these high-powered magnets are not good choices for kids.

What to Know About the Dangers of High-Powered Magnets

High-powered magnets don’t make good toys for kids. Understand the risks if you have them in your home and be sure to seek immediate medical attention if your child swallows a magnet.

More on the Dangers of High-Powered Magnets

30 Uncommon Diseases Parents Should Learn to Recognize

Did you know that just because your younger child is pulling at their ears, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have an ear infection?

It could be teething, an over-tired infant or toddler, or a kid with a cold and their ears are popping because of congestion.

Understanding common, and some not so common symptoms of pediatric diseases can help make sure that your kids get diagnosed and treated quickly.

Symptoms of Classic Pediatric Diseases

Most parents are familiar with the more classic pediatric diseases and the signs and symptoms that accompany them, such as:

  • Appendicitis – classically, it starts with pain near the belly button, which quickly worsens and moves to the lower right side of your child’s abdomen. Appendicitis is not always classic though
  • Croup – often starts in the middle of the night with a seal bark cough, heavy breathing that sounds like wheezing, and a hoarse voice
  • Diabetes – type 1 diabetes is classically associated with polydipsia (drinking a lot), polyuria (frequently urinating large amounts), and weight loss
  • Ear infection – in addition to ear pain, fussiness, or tugging at their ears, kids with an ear infection will usually have cold symptoms, or at least might have had a recent cold, with a cough and runny nose
  • Fifth disease – red cheeks that appear to be slapped followed by a pink lacy rash on a child’s arms and legs that can linger for weeks
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease – caused by the coxsackievirus A16 virus, kids with HFMD classically have ulcers in their mouth and little red blisters on their hands and feet. They might also have a fever and a rash on their buttocks and legs.
  • Hives – hives or whelps are raised, red or pink areas on your child’s skin that come and go, moving around over a period of three to four hours and are a sign of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, unless your child is taking medicine or just eat something, it can be hard to find the allergic trigger. You often don’t need to though, as hives can also just be triggered by viral infections and might not come back.
  • Impetigo – honey colored crusted areas on your child’s skin that are a sign of a bacterial infection
  • Ringworm – a fungal infection that can appear on a child’s skin (tinea corporis), feet (tinea pedis), groin (tinea cruris), nails (tinea unguium), or scalp (tinea capitis)
  • Roseola – another viral infection, this one is caused by human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and 7 and causes a high fever for three or four days, and then, as the fever breaks, your child breaks out in a pinkish rash. The rash starts on their trunk, spreads to their arms and legs, and is gone in a few days.
  • Swimmer’s ear – the tricky part about recognizing swimmer’s ear is that you can get it anytime you get water in your ear, not just after swimming, leading to pain of the outer ear, especially when you push or tug on it.

Symptoms of Uncommon Pediatric Diseases

Although not necessarily rare, it is often uncommon for the average parent, and some pediatricians, to be familiar with all of the following conditions unless they have already been affected by them.

Having dark, brown or Coca Cola-colored urine is a classic sign of acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
Having dark, brown or Coca Cola-colored urine is a classic sign of acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Why should you know about them?

Some are medical emergencies. Missing them could lead to a delay in seeking treatment.

Others, while they might not be emergencies, often lead parents to seek treatment, but it might not necessarily be the right treatment if someone doesn’t recognize what is truly going on with your child.

  1. Acanthosis nigricans – dark thickened (velvety textured) skin often found on the back of an overweight teen’s neck, and sometimes in their armpits and other skin folds, and which can be a sign of type 2 diabetes
  2. Anaphylaxis – while a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis is not easy to miss, getting proper treatment is sometimes difficult. This life-threatening reaction requires an epinephrine injection as soon as possible, something that some parents and even some emergency rooms seem hesitant to do.
  3. Bell’s Palsy – children with Bell’s palsy develop a sudden weakness or paralysis of the muscles of one side of their face. Fortunately, the symptoms usually begin to resolve in a few weeks.
  4. Breath holding spells – a young child having a breath holding spell will actually pass out! While it sounds scary, since they follow a typical pattern, either the child is crying forcibly (cyanotic breath holding spell) or something painful happened suddenly (pallid breath holding spell), and they quickly wake up and are fine, you hopefully won’t panic if you ever see one.
  5. Cat scratch disease – after a bite or scratch from an infected cat or kitten, a child will develop a few lesions at the scratch site, but will also develop enlarged lymph nodes nearby – typically their armpit or neck if they were scratched on the arm.
  6. Cyclic vomiting syndrome – possibly related to migraines, children with cyclic vomiting syndrome have repeated episodes of intense nausea and vomiting, sometimes leading to dehydration, every few weeks or months
  7. Diabetes insipidus – like type 1 diabetes, kids with diabetes insipidus urinate a lot and drink a lot, but it has nothing to do with their blood sugar. It can follow a head injury or problem with their kidneys.
  8. Encopresis – kids with encopresis have soiling accidents, sometimes leading parents to think that they have diarrhea. Instead, they are severely constipated and have small amounts of liquidy stool  involuntarily leaking into their underwear after getting passed large amounts of impacted stool.
  9. Erythema multiforme minor – triggered by infections and sometimes medications, kids with EM have a rash that looks like hives, but instead of going away, they just keep getting more spots, some of which look like target lesions. The severe form of EM, erythema multiforme major is fortunately rare.
  10. Geographic tongue – a curiosity more than a condition, children with geographic tongue have bald areas on their tongue where the papilla have been lost (temporarily). The name comes from the fact that the shapes of the bald areas vary in size and shape and they move around. They are not painful, although parents typically don’t notice them until they look in their child’s mouth when they complain of a sore throat or other problem.
  11. Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP) – episodes of HSP typically follow an upper respiratory tract infection, when kids develop a rash (palpable pururpa), stomach aches, arthritis (joint swelling and pain), and more rarely, kidney problems. The rash is distinctive – red dots (petechiae) and a hive-like rash that looks like bruises.
  12. Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) – follows a diarrheal illness with E. coli, in which toxin from the bacteria causes bleeding (from low platelets) and anemia (destruction of red blood cells) and can lead to kidney damage.
  13. Intussusception – colicky abdominal pain (severe pain that comes and goes) and loose stools that are filled with blood and mucous (red currant jelly stools) in young kids, typically between the ages of three months and three years
  14. Kawasaki disease – it is important to recognize when a child might have Kawasaki disease, because early treatment might help prevent serious heart complications from developing. The initial signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease can include a prolonged fever (more than five days), swollen lymph glands, pink eye (without discharge), rash, strawberry tongue, irritability, swelling of hands and feet, red and cracked lips, and as the fever goes away, skin peeling.
  15. Nephrotic syndrome – kids with nephrotic syndrome have swelling (edema), around their eyes, on their legs, and even their belly. All of the swelling causes them to quickly gain weight. Because, at first, the swelling is worse in the morning and gets better as your child is up and about, it might be mistaken for other things that cause swelling, like eye allergies. Nephrotic syndrome won’t get better with eye drops though.
  16. Night terrors – most common in preschoolers and younger school age children, kids with night terrors ‘wake up’ in the early part of the night screaming and are confused and impossible to console, because they are really still asleep. The episodes are not remembered the next morning and are often triggered when kids are off their schedule or under extra stress.
  17. Nursemaid’s elbow – you are walking with your toddler and all of a sudden he gets mad, drops to the ground while you are holding his hand, and then he refuses to move his arm or bend his elbow. Did you break his arm? It’s probably a radial head subluxation, which your pediatrician can usually easily reduce.
  18. Obstructive sleep apnea – although many kids might snore normally, with obstructive sleep apnea, the snoring will be loud, with pauses, gasps, and snorts that might wake your child up or at least disturb their sleep.
  19. PANDAS – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections is characterized by OCD and/or tics that appear or suddenly worsen after a strep infection.
  20. Peritonsillar abscess – a complication of tonsillitis, it can cause fever, severe throat pain, drooling, a muffled voice (hot potato voice), and swelling on the side of one tonsil, pushing the uvula towards the other side
  21. Pica – while many younger kids put things in their mouth, kids with pica crave and eat all of those non-food things. Since it can be a sign of iron-deficiency, talk to your pediatrician if you think that your child might have pica.
  22. Pityriasis rosea – kids with pityriasis rosea have a rash that starts with a herald patch (looks like a ringworm) and is then followed by a lot of small, oval shaped red or pink patches with scale on their trunk. The rash, which may be a little itchy, can last for up to 6-12 weeks.
  23. POTS – teens with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome have dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating and other symptoms related to alterations or dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia).
  24. Pyloric stenosis – since so many infants spit up, it is not uncommon for the parents and pediatricians to sometimes delay thinking about pyloric stenosis when a baby has it. Unlike reflux or a stomach virus, with pyloric stenosis, because their pylorus muscle becomes enlarged, no food or liquid is able to leave their stomach and they eventually have projectile vomiting of everything they try to eat or drink. It is most common in babies who are about three to five weeks old.
  25. Scalded skin syndrome – unlike typical bacterial skin infections, with scalded skin syndrome, exotoxins that certain Staphylococcus aureus bacteria cause the skin to blister and appear burned, with eventual skin peeling
  26. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome – a rare skin reaction that can be triggered by medications, beginning with flu like symptoms, but then progressing to a blistering rash that includes their mouth and eyes.
  27. Testicular torsion – if one of the testicles twists around the spermatic cord, it can cut off blood flow and quickly lead to permanent damage. Sudden, severe pain and swelling often make it easy to recognize this medical emergency, but sometimes the pain comes on more slowly or the pain is dismissed as happening from trauma, epididymitis, or torsion of the appendix testis.
  28. Toxic synovitis – typically following a viral infection, kids with toxic synovitis have hip pain and limping for a few days, but otherwise seem well, without high fever or other symptoms
  29. Vocal cord dysfunction – often misdiagnosed as asthma, especially exercise induced asthma, and other things, kids with vocal cord dysfunction often have episodes of repeated shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing – just like asthma. They don’t improve though, even as more asthma medicines are added, which should be a red flag that they don’t have asthma and could have vocal cord dysfunction instead.
  30. Volvulus – a volvulus occurs when the intestines twists on itself, cutting off blood blow. In addition to severe abdominal pain, these kids often having vomiting – typically of a green, bile looking material (bilious vomiting). Green vomitus can also be a sign of other intestinal obstructions, but all would be a medical emergency.

Is knowing about these conditions always helpful?

No, especially if you don’t know what a ‘seal bark’ or ‘hot potato voice’ sounds like or what ‘red currant jelly’ looks like, but it likely shouldn’t hurt to get a little more educated about the diseases that could be causing your child’s symptoms.

What to Know About Recognizing Symptoms of Pediatric Disease

Having the internet and access to Google doesn’t make you a doctor. Get real medical advice if you think that your child is sick and has symptoms that have you concerned. It does help to know which symptoms to be concerned about though.

More on Recognizing Symptoms of Pediatric Disease


Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a very common childhood skin rash, that surprisingly, few parents seem to have ever heard of.

While most parents have likely have heard of eczema, ringworm, and impetigo, a diagnosis of molluscum might leave them with their head scratching. Hopefully their kids won’t be scratching too.

Molluscum is contagious!

Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum lesions are typically small and dome shaped, with a small dimple in their center. Although often flesh colored, they can also be pink.

They are usually found alone or grouped on a child’s chest or back, arm pit, or around the skin folds of their elbow and knees.

For many children, molluscum don’t cause any symptoms and the rash is simply a cosmetic problem. Others can get redness and scaling on the skin around the molluscum rash, and it may be itchy.

Another characteristic is that molluscum will sometimes have a plug of cheesy material coming out of the central part of the lesion.

Spotting Molluscum Contagiosum

The diagnosis of molluscum is usually made based on their classic appearance.

Three molluscum lesions on a child's arm.
Three molluscum lesions on a child’s arm. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

The diagnosis can be confusing at first though, when the molluscum are still very small. It may take a few weeks for the lesions to grow before they look like more typical molluscum lesions.

Molluscum might also be confused with other rashes if they are red and inflamed when you go see your pediatrician, or if there is a lot of redness around the rash. That might make your pediatrician think that your child has a small abscess or simple eczema.

Getting Rid of Molluscum Contagiosum

Since molluscum usually goes away in about six to nine months on its own, some pediatricians advocate not treating it. Keep in mind that it can sometimes last for two to four years and may spread aggressively, which is why others do recommend treating molluscum with:

  • Direct removal with a curette
  • Cryosurgery – freezing
  • Cantharidin – a blistering agent
  • Aldara cream (Imiquimod) – also used for genital warts, although they are not related to molluscum
  • Retin A cream (Tretinoin) – also used for acne

All of these treatments have their shortcomings though.

Direct removal and cryosurgery are painful. Cantharidin can cause large blisters. Aldara is expensive. And Retin A doesn’t always work well when used by itself. Also, both Aldara and Retin A can be very irritating to the normal skin that surrounds the molluscum rash.

More About Molluscum Contagiosum

So what should you do about your child’s molluscum?

Talk with your pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist about your options, which might include:

  • Leaving the molluscum alone, especially if your child has already had them for several months and they are not spreading. Just avoid sharing towels and skin-to-skin contact with others, because they are contagious. It is not a reason to stay out of school or daycare though.
  • Trying direct removal with a curette or cryosurgery if your child only has a few lesions. Although it can be painful, your pediatrician can consider using a topical anesthetic.
  • Using cantharidin if your child doesn’t have a lot of lesions. It is not FDA approved in the United States though, so not all doctors have it, and it can sometimes produce large blisters.
  • Using Aldara cream or Retin A cream – either alone or together on alternate days.

Most importantly, if you do treat your child’s molluscum, watch for new lesions during treatment. They are contagious and start spreading the infection again, even if the initial treatment was successful. And molluscum has a very long incubation period – up to about two months!

Other things to know include that:

  • Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a double-stranded DNA poxvirus.
  • Molluscum can be spread by direct contact with an infected person, touching contaminated objects (such as towels, toys, or clothing), and on a child when they scratch a lesion and then scratch other areas of their skin (autoinoculation). So encourage your child to not pick at them.
  • Molluscum can grow aggressively in children who have a weakened immune system.
  • Molluscum can be a sexually transmitted infection in older teens and adults. It is so common in young children though, that unless there are other signs or suspicions, it is usually not considered a sign of abuse, even if you find an isolated lesion in the anogenital area.

Also keep in mind that a pediatric dermatologist can be helpful if your child has molluscum that isn’t responding to standard treatments.

What to Know About Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a very common viral infection that can cause a skin rash in children. Although difficult to treat, it does typically go away on its own – eventually.

More Information on Molluscum Contagiosum

The Myth of an Autism Epidemic

We hear stories about the rise in autism and the autism epidemic all of the time.

Autism prevalence rates have been steady at 1 in 68 since 2010.
Autism prevalence rates have been steady at 1 in 68 since 2010.

Every few years, the CDC had been releasing a new report which showed a higher prevalence of autism in the United States, including:

  • 1 in 150 children in 2000
  • 1 in 150 children in 2002
  • 1 in 125 children in 2004
  • 1 in 110 children in 2006
  • 1 in 88 children in 2008
  • 1 in 68 children in 2010
  • 1 in 68 children in 2012

Looking at those numbers, it is easy to see most people think that the rate of autism is rising.

And if the rate of autism is rising, then there must be a cause.

Thinking about it like that, it becomes easy to see why vaccines became the scapegoat for causing autism, especially after Andrew Wakefield told everyone that it “is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR…”

The Myth of an Autism Epidemic

Many experts don’t think that there is an autism epidemic though.

“…the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them.”

Emily Willingham

There are several different explanations for the apparent rise in the number of children being diagnosed with autism, including:

  • better recognition among health care providers
  • better recognition among parents
  • diagnostic substitution – children were once diagnosed with other conditions, such as mental retardation and learning disabilities
  • broadening of the criteria used to diagnose autism, including changes in DSM criteria, which went from labeling children with autism as having childhood schizophrenia (1952) and including just three essential features of infantile autism (1980) to adding PDD-NOS (1987) and more subtypes and symptoms to the autism diagnosis category in DSM-IV (1994).
  • social influences, including that more parents may have wanted to seek help when more resources become available and because they may have become more accepting of the possibility that their child had autism, leading them to seek a diagnosis and services. For example, before 1975 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, children with disabilities were excluded from school. And then in 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) included autism as a separate disability, making it a little easier to get services.

All together, these explanations help explain what has been confirmed by numerous studies, that the true prevalence of autism hasn’t changed over time.

What To Know About The Autism Epidemic Myth

There is no autism epidemic.

  • There are adults and older people with autism. Did you know that the the first meeting of the National Society of Autistic Children was held in 1965?
  • The idea that the ‘autism epidemic’ is a myth is not new – experts have been talking about it for over 10 years, which makes you wonder why some people still push the idea. An idea that hurts autistic families.
  • A 2015 study concluded that “Changes in reporting practices can account for most (60%) of the increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs in children born from 1980 through 1991 in Denmark. Hence, the study supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASDs in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices.”
  • Autism is thought to be genetically based.

Some folks, especially those in the anti-vaccine movement, don’t want to believe that there is no autism epidemic though.

“If there is no autism epidemic, if there is a “stable incidence” of autism over recent decades, then this alone is powerful evidence against the vaccine hypothesis – and in fact removes the primary piece of evidence for a vaccine-autism connection.”

Steven Novella on The Increase in Autism Diagnoses: Two Hypotheses

After all, if there is no autism epidemic, then they can’t blame vaccines for be causing an autism epidemic…

More About the Autism Epidemic Myth


Reducing the Risk of Hot Car Deaths

Good Samaritan laws can offer protection if you help a child in a hot car in an emergency. Call 911 and get the child out of the hot car if you need to.
Good Samaritan laws can offer protection if you help a child in a hot car in an emergency. Call 911 and get the child out of the hot car if you need to.

In the United States, about 37 children die each year in hot cars.

Few are left in the car intentionally.

About half are accidents. Parents who forgot that the child was still in the car.

Many of the deaths are kids who got into the car and couldn’t get out.

All are tragic.

Kids in Hot Cars

How can you forget a child in a car?

Especially a car that might heat up to the point that a child can quickly die inside?

Although many people find it unbelievable that it can happen, it happens just the same.

People, once they are out of their very rigid routine, forget to drop a child off at daycare or that their child is still in the car.

“On days when the ambient temperature was 72°F, we showed that the internal vehicle temperature can reach 117°F within 60 minutes, with 80% of the temperature rise occurring in the first 30 minutes.”

Catherine McLaren on Heat Stress From Enclosed Vehicles

And remember, it doesn’t even have to be that hot outside for a car to quickly heat up.

How Hot Car Deaths Happen

It’s easy to see how some hot car deaths happen.

These are the deaths that are borne out of parental negligence. The kids who are left in a car while their parents party or shop.

But then you have the story of the mom who forgot to drop off her 7-month-old – dad usually drops her off – and doesn’t notice that she is still in the car until she picks up her son at daycare after work.

Or the child forgotten in a car after a family returns home.

Some deaths occur at daycare – kids left on a bus or van.

And sometimes kids get trapped in a car that had been unlocked.

Reducing the Risk of Hot Car Deaths

To help reduce the risk of these tragic hot car deaths, it might help to:

  • never leave your child alone in any vehicle, not even for a minute
  • lock your car and secure the keys so that your kids can’t get into your car and play by themselves
  • check the inside (after checking nearby bodies of water) of nearby vehicles, including their trunks, when a child goes missing
  • make sure your daycare provider alerts you if your child doesn’t show up
  • place reminders in the back seat with your child, so that even if you forget to drop off your child on the way to work, you will notice once you get to work and gather your things
  • bring your kids inside the house before anything else, so that you are less likely to get distracted and forget them outside
  • have a designated watcher if you have a lot of kids, especially if they are in multiple cars, to make sure everyone gets inside and no one is left in the car
  • call 911 if you see a child alone in any vehicle and get them out as soon as possible if they are not responsive or they are in distress
  • push for automakers to include standard devices in all cars to prevent hot car deaths

Most importantly, remember that it can happen to anyone, so be extra careful when you break your routine and always “look before you leave” or lock your car.

What To Know About Hot Car Deaths

Look before you lock and learn other way to reduce your child’s risk of a hot car death.

More About Hot Car Deaths

Safe and Effective Sun Screens for Kids

One of the cardinal rules of summer is that you don’t let your kids get a sunburn.

While a really great rule, it misses that you also shouldn’t let them get a tan either, and the rule doesn’t just apply to summer.

How do they do it in Australia? Slip (on some sleeves) - Slop (on a lot of sunscreen) - Slap (on a hat) - Seek (shade) - and Slide (on your sunglasses).
How do they do it in Australia? Slip (on some sleeves) – Slop (on a lot of sunscreen) – Slap (on a hat) – Seek (shade) – and Slide (on your sunglasses).

That’s were sunscreen comes in. Slop it on.

Sunscreens for Kids

Are sunscreens safe for kids?

As with insect repellents, despite all of the warning about chemicals and toxins that you might read on the internet, the answer is of course they are. In fact, most sunscreens can even be used on infants as young as age six months. And it is certainly better than letting your kids get sunburned!

You do have to use them correctly though.

Choosing a Safe and Effective Sunscreen

Which sunscreen should you use?

This Blue Lizard sunscreen includes Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, providing broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
This Blue Lizard sunscreen includes Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, providing broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Many parents are surprised that there are actually a lot of different ingredients in sunscreens, from Aminobenzoic acid and Octocrylene to Zinc Oxide.

While some are physical sunscreens (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide), others are chemical sunscreens. Some provide UVA protection, some UVB protection, and some offer both. And not surprisingly, some have become controversial, especially retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone.

All are thought to be safe though.

Which is best?

When choosing a sunscreen, start with the fact that none should usually be used on infants under six months of age. Otherwise, choose the product (whatever the brand, to be honest, whether it is Banana Boat, Blue Lizard, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, Neutrogena, or Target) best suited to your child’s needs, especially considering that:

  • sun tan lotion and tanning oil should be avoided
  • SPF 8 only blocks 87 percent of UVB rays and should be avoided
  • SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays (minimum you should use)
  • SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB rays (good for daily use)
  • SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB rays (good for daily use)
  • SPF 50+ don’t offer much more UVB protection and may encourage folks to stay in the sun longer than they should, putting them at even more risk from UVA rays
  • a broad-spectrum sunscreen provides both UVA and UVB protection
  • even if your kids don’t go in the water, a sunscreen that is water-resistant might stay on better if they are sweating or get sprayed with water

In addition to the active ingredient and it’s SPF, you can now decide if you want a sunscreen that is in a spray, mist, cream, lotion, or stick. You can then pick one that is fragrance free, PABA free (of course), tear free, oil free (important if your kids have acne), for your baby or your kid playing sports, for someone with sensitive skin, or goes on dry.

Using a whipped sunscreen is just one of the newer ways to protect your kids from the sun's harmful rays.
Using a whipped sunscreen is just one of the newer ways to protect your kids in the sun.

Or would you like your child’s sunscreen whipped???

While parents and kids often seem to prefer spray sunscreens, do keep in mind the warnings about inhaling the spray and that some experts are concerned that they make it harder to apply a generous amount on your child. How much of the spray goes off in the wind? How much end up in an oily spot on the floor? If you use a spray sunscreen, follow the directions, rub it in, and don’t spray it in your child’s face. Also, don’t spray sunscreen on your child near an open flame.

Most importantly, you want to choose a sunscreen that will help you get in a good routine of using properly and using all of the time. Personally, I like all of the newer non-greasy lotions for kids and adults that have come out in the last few years. They are easy to apply, even in generous amounts, and work well.

Using Sunscreens on Kids

Now that you have chosen your sunscreen, be sure to use it properly.

“An average-sized adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen (about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass) to evenly cover the body from head to toe.”


Do your kids still get burned or tanned despite using sunscreen? They aren’t immune to sunscreen. You are probably just making one or more common sunscreen mistakes, like not using enough sunscreen (start using a lot more), waiting until you’re already outside before applying it on your kids (you want to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go outside so that it has time to get absorbed into their skin), or not reapplying it often enough (sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours or more often if your kids are swimming or sweating a lot).

How long does a 6 or 8 ounce container of sunscreen last you? Remember that if you are applying an ounce before your kids go outside, reapplying it every few hours, and using it on most days (not just in the summer), then it shouldn’t last very long at all.

A layered approach to sun protection can help keep your kids safe in the sun.
A layered approach to sun protection can help keep your kids safe in the sun.

For the best protection and to avoid mistakes, be sure to read the label and follow your sunscreen’s instructions carefully, and also:

  • encourage your kids to seek shade and wear protective clothing (especially hats, sunglasses, and UPF sun-safe clothing), in addition to wearing sun screen for extra sun protection
  • use sunscreen every time they go outside, even when it’s cloudy
  • reduce or limit your child’s sun exposure when UV rays are strongest, which is usually from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and all of the way to 4 p.m. in most areas), especially on days when the UV index is moderate or high and/or when there is a UV Alert in your area.

If you forget something, remember slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide.

Facts about Sunscreens and Sun Protection for Kids

Other things to know about sunscreen and sun protection for kids include that:

  • Waiting for improvements to sunscreen labels and new requirements for sunscreens? The FDA made their ‘big changes’ to sunscreens back in 2011. The main things that got left were the SPF cap and the rating system for UVA protection.
  • Tanning beds are not a safe alternative to getting a tan outside in the sun.
  • It is not safe to get a base tan. It won’t protect you from a sunburn and it increases your chance of future melanoma.
  • Still confused about how much sunscreen to use? Another handy rule is that a handful of sunscreen (fill to cover the palm of their cupped hand) should be a generous amount that’s enough to cover your child’s entire body. Since bigger kids have bigger hands, that should help you adjust the amount for different-size kids and as they get older.
  • Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. Use separate products instead, applying the sunscreen first and reapplying the sunscreen every few hours as necessary. Since you don’t typically reapply insect repellents (unless you are going to be outside for a really long time), if your child starts to get bitten, next time, you will likely need to consider using an insect repellent with a different active ingredient or at least one with a stronger concentration that might last longer.
  • SPF is only a measure of the sunscreen’s level of protection against UVB rays, but does say anything about UVA protection. A sunscreen that is labeled as being broad spectrum should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • According to the FDA, “SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to amount of solar exposure.” What does that mean? While you can stay in the sun longer when protected with a sunscreen, no matter the SPF, it doesn’t tell you how long. Other factors, including the time of day, weather conditions, and even your location will help determine how quickly your skin will burn.
  • Sunscreens should be stored in a cool place and be thrown away after they expire. While it might be convenient, your car is not a good place to store your sunscreen.

Ready for some fun in the sun now? You sure you won’t come home with a sunburn or a dark tan?

What To Know About Sunscreens for Kids

Applying a generous amount of a water-resistant sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum SPF 15 to 30 sun protection at least 15 to 30 minutes before your child is going to be in the sun, reapplying every few hours, can help keep your kids safe in the sun.

More About Sunscreens for Kids

Incubation Periods of Childhood Diseases

The incubation period or latency period is the amount of time between being exposed to a contagious disease and when you begin developing symptoms.

This is not the same as the contagious period or the time during which your child can get others sick.

Incubation Period

Depending on the disease, the incubation period can be just a few hours or can last for several months. Knowing the incubation period for a disease can help you understand if your child is still at risk of getting sick or if he is in the clear — whether he is exposed to someone with strep throat, measles, or the flu.

“The incubation period is the time from exposure to the causative agent until the first symptoms develop and is characteristic for each disease agent.”


It can also help you figure out where and when your child got sick. For example, if your infant develops chickenpox, a vaccine-preventable disease, you can’t blame it on your cousin who doesn’t vaccinate her kids and who was visiting just three days ago. The incubation period for chickenpox is at least 10 to 21 days. So your child who is too young to be vaccinated likely caught chicken pox from someone he was exposed to a few weeks ago.

As we saw in recent outbreaks of Ebola and measles, a diseases incubation period can also help you figure out how long an exposed person needs to stay in quarantine. After all, if they don’t get sick once the incubation period is over, then they likely won’t get sick and can be released from quarantine.

Incubation Periods of Childhood Diseases

The incubation period for some common diseases includes:

  • Adenovirus – 2 to 14 days, leading to a sore throat, fever, and pink eye
  • vomiting after exposure to Bacillus cereus, a type of food poisoning – 30 minutes to 6 hours (short incubation period
  • Clostridium tetani (Tetanus) – 3 to 21 days
  • Chickenpox – 10 to 21 days
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections (Infectious Mononucleosis) – 30 to 50 days (long incubation period)
  • E. coli – 10 hours to 6 days (short incubation period)
  • E. coli O157:H7 – 1 to 8 days
  • Fifth disease – 4 to 21 days, with the classic ‘slapped cheek’ rash
  • Group A streptococcal (GAS) infection (strep throat) – 2 to 5 days
  • Group A streptococcal (GAS) infection (impetigo) – 7 to 10 days
  • Head lice (time for eggs to hatch) – 7 to 12 days
  • Herpes (cold sores) – 2 to 14 days
  • HIV – less than 1 year to over 15 years
  • Influenza (flu) – 1 to 4 days
  • Listeria monocytogenes (Listeriosis) – 1 day to 3 weeks, but can be as long as 2 months (long incubation period)
  • Measles – 7 to 18 days
  • Molluscum contagiosum – 2 weeks to 6 months (long incubation period)
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) – 2 to 10 weeks (long incubation period)
  • Mycoplasma penumoniae (walking pneumonia) – 1 to 4 weeks
  • Norovirus ( the ‘cruise ship’ diarrhea virus) – 12 to 48 hours
  • Pinworms – 1 to 2 months
  • Rabies – 4 to 6 weeks, but can last years (very long incubation period)
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – 2 to 8 days
  • Rhinovirus (common cold) – 2 to 3 days, but may be up to 7 days
  • Roseola – about 9 to 10 days, leading to a few days of fever and then the classic rash once the fever breaks
  • Rotavirus – 1 to 3 days
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting) after exposure to Salmonella – 6 to 72 hours
  • Scabies – 4 to 6 weeks
  • Staphylococcus aureus – varies
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (can cause pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections, and sinus infection, setc.) – 1 to 3 days
  • Whooping cough (pertussis) – 5 to 21 days

Knowing the incubation period of an illness isn’t always as helpful as it seems, though, as kids often have multiple exposures when kids around them are sick, especially if they are in school or daycare.

Conditions with long incubation periods can also fool you, as you might suspect a recent exposure, but it was really someone your child was around months ago.

More About Incubation Periods