Making Sense of Sunscreen

February 29th, 2012

Sunscreens promise protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause sunburn and skin cancer. But how effective are they?

Studies have proven that sunscreen lowers the incidence of skin cancer. But sunscreen doesn’t give complete protection, and using it doesn’t mean you can sit in the sun for long periods without damage.

To protect yourself, it helps to know more about UV rays and sunscreens.

Sun facts
Sunlight contains two types of ultraviolet rays that can reach the earth and cause skin damage: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).

•UVA rays account for the bulk of our sun exposure, and cause most aging of the skin. They are also linked to some skin cancers.
•UVB rays directly damage the DNA of the skin cells. They cause most sunburns and are thought to cause most skin cancers.
What is most important to know is that there are no “safe” UV rays. Both types can cause skin cancer, including melanoma, the most deadly form.

Selecting the right sunscreen
The goal of a sunscreen is to protect the skin from both types of UV rays. When sorting through your choices at the drugstore, focus on the SPF (sun protection factor) number on the labels. Experts recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

SPF is an indicator of how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays. For example, with an SPF 15 sunscreen, you get about 1 minute of UVB rays for each 15 minutes you spend in the sun. An hour in the sun wearing SPF 15 sunscreen gives you about the same UVB exposure as 4 minutes without sunscreen.

A good sunscreen should protect against both types of UV rays. Make sure the label says “broad-spectrum” or that it provides both UVA and UVB protection. To provide broad-spectrum protection, most sunscreens will include some of the following:

•Chemical ingredients: These absorb both UVA and UVB radiation. These may include avobenzone, or benzophenones. Some, especially benzophenones, can cause skin reactions.
•Physical ingredients: These can physically block and reflect away both types of UV radiation. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of the more common physical compounds found in sunscreens. These are less likely to cause allergic skin reactions than some chemical ingredients.
It’s important to remember that no sunscreen provides complete protection. Even if you don’t burn, too much time in the sun can still damage and age the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.

Many moisturizers and other cosmetic products have an SPF. These products may be fine if you only spend a few minutes in the sun each day. But if you work or play outdoors, you need a stronger, water-resistant sunscreen.

How to use sunscreen
To fend off the sun’s damaging rays:

•Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply it at least 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to give it time to bind to your skin.
•Apply sunscreen generously. You should use about 1 ounce (a palmful) each time you apply it. Coat all skin not covered by clothing. Don’t miss easy-to-forget areas, such as tops of the feet and the ears.
•Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors and after swimming, sweating heavily, and toweling off.
•Use sunscreen every day. UV rays reach the earth even on cloudy days and during the winter, and UVA rays can pass through glass.
•Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect your skin. Cover up when outside. Wear a brimmed hat, UV-protection sunglasses, lip balm with sunscreen, and a long-sleeved shirt, pants, or a skirt.
Children need extra attention because they often spend a lot of time in the sun and their delicate skin can burn easily.

•Don’t use sunscreen on children younger than 6 months. Babies should be kept out of the sun and covered or shaded when they’re outside.
•Protect children older than 6 months by using sunscreen, dressing them in protective clothes, and urging them to play in the shade. As with everyone, it is important for them to avoid sun exposure at the peak of intensity, between 10 am and 4 pm.

Helping Your Teen Get Ready for High School

February 29th, 2012

As your child starts high school, getting from science class to the gym won’t be his or her only challenge. In fact, soon-to-be high school freshmen may have a ton of concerns. For example:

•Will they be in classes with friends?
•Will they have trouble finding their way around the school?
•Will classes be too hard?
•What if they don’t fit in or can’t make new friends?
Fear of the unknown can cause stress and take your child’s focus away from the positive experiences high school has to offer. Here are ways you can help your child take that big step.

Preparing for high school
By helping your child prepare, you can help ensure that the first day of high school is a positive experience.

•Be enthusiastic. Focus on all the fun things there are to do in high school, such as sports and activities that your child wants to try.
•Attend freshman orientation. Your child, no doubt, has a lot of worries about what the first day will be like. Finding the homeroom ahead of time, learning where classes will be and comparing schedules with friends can help your child relieve many of those worries.
•Help choose courses. Ask your child what elective classes seem interesting and help choose the ones that will help develop a skill or advance your child academically.
•Instill confidence. Talk with your child about all his or her positive qualities and talents. Help your child know that he or she has a lot to offer the school and shouldn’t simply blend into the background.
•Encourage a healthy sleep schedule. As summer winds down, encourage your child to start going to bed earlier each night and waking up earlier in the morning. Kids should try to get at least nine hours of sleep each night.
•Let your child choose his or her own wardrobe. There’s no need to spend a fortune, but help your child feel he or she will fit in by letting your child choose clothes that are in fashion.
Continuing support once high school starts
Once your freshman has a few days under his or her belt, chances are getting from one class to another or finding the cafeteria will be no problem. But for a successful school year, your child will need more than a school map. Offer these pointers for long-term success:

•Help your child have realistic expectations. It’s rare for a young teenager to be an instant high-school success. Tell your high school freshman not to try to do too much too soon so he or she does not feel unnecessary pressure.
•Explain the importance of attendance and involvement. Let your child know how being absent can affect grades, and that engaging in school activities will help him or her feel involved and make new friends.
•Encourage good study habits. Explain that high school teachers might expect more than eighth-grade teachers did. Help your child learn how to stay organized, and find a quiet place where he or she can study without distractions.
•Talk about friends. Encourage your child to gravitate towards those who share his or her interests and values. And encourage your child to choose his or her friends rather than waiting to be chosen.
•Help your child learn how to manage time. Have conversations with your child about balancing homework, extracurricular activities and downtime. Don’t let your child get overbooked. Suggest he or she choose one or two extracurricular activities instead of four or five. And make sure your child has time just to relax.
•Reassure your child that help is always available. If your child is struggling with a class, he or she might benefit from an after school homework club. Some schools even offer tutoring by members of the National Honor Society. If he or she is being bullied, a guidance counselor can help. Reassure your child that counselors are trained to resolve such conflicts.
Depression in ninth-graders
Research shows that ninth-graders are more prone to depression than their eighth-grade counterparts. They are also more likely to drop out or be retained in their freshman year than in the upper grades.

If you see signs of depression, have your child talk to a school counselor or a mental health professional. Symptoms include:

•Trouble sleeping
•Changes in eating habits
•Crying
•Headaches and stomachaches
•School avoidance
•Lack of interest in activities he or she once enjoyed
Finally, let your child know that he or she is not alone. Most of your child’s classmates are facing the exact same challenges. As your child learns his or her way around, makes new friends and gets to know the teachers, school will likely start feeling like a familiar and comfortable place.

Easing the Backpack Burden

February 29th, 2012

Now that the school year is underway, be sure to lift your child’s backpack regularly to see how much weight he or she is toting. Experts recommend that a backpack should weigh less than 20% of a child’s overall weight. Here are some smart tips for minimizing the backpack burden on young, growing bodies.

Ease the Backpack Burden

•Go Wide: Avoid narrow shoulder straps, which can dig into shoulders.
•Balance Out: Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps. Throwing a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
•Shelve It: Suggest that your child leave heavy books in his or her locker instead of carrying them all day.
•Roll It: For students with heavy loads, rolling backpacks are a good option, if your school permits.
Editor’s Note: If your child or teen has any back pain, consult your family doctor.

Keep Those School Lunches Cool

February 29th, 2012

Nothing’s better than a homemade lunch from mom — packed with love — to perk up a kid’s school day. But, in the morning hustle, make sure the lunch you pack is safe.

You probably prepare a fresh lunch in the morning, but it may be several hours before your child actually eats it. Bacteria begin multiplying after just two hours at room temperature.

These foods should be kept cold
Salmonella, staphylococcus and E coli are just some of the bacteria that have the potential to contaminate food. They especially love “perishable” foods. Be sure to these foods are kept cold until ready to eat:

•Cooked meats, such as cold cuts and lunch meats
•Pre-made tuna, chicken, egg or pasta salads
•Dairy products (milk, soft cheese and yogurt)
•Cut fruits and vegetables
Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats — along with crackers, cheese and condiments — are also at high risk for contamination and should be kept cold.

Here are some lunchbox favorites that are safe at room temperature:

•Bread, crackers and cereal
•Peanut butter
•Whole, uncut fruit and vegetables
•Unopened canned fruit
•Dried fruit
•Unopened juice boxes
•Hard cheese
•Nuts and seeds
•Unopened cans of tuna, meats or poultry
Tips for packing a safe lunch
Though it takes forethought, keeping your child’s lunch safe from food borne illness is not hard. All you need is good hygiene habits and planning. Here’s what to do:

Practice good preparation techniques.

•Keep everything clean when you make and pack school lunches.
•Wash hands, food-preparation surfaces, utensils and kitchen counters with hot, soapy water to rid them of germs.
•If you make school lunches ahead of time, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer until your child leaves for school.
How to keep cold foods cold.

•Soft, insulated lunch bags or boxes are the best choice for keeping lunches cold. Wash them with hot soapy water after each use.
•Along with an insulated bag, include a freezer gel, small ice pack or frozen juice box. Place it right next to the sandwich.
•Consider freezing your child’s sandwiches. This works better with coarse-textured breads that won’t get soggy when they thaw. The sandwich thaws in time for lunch and keeps everything else in the lunch box cold. (If your children like lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on their sandwiches, pack those separately).
•Use a thermos to keep milk or juice cold until lunchtime.
•Instruct children to keep their lunches in the coolest place possible. A refrigerator is the best bet. If not, remind them to keep it out of the sun and away from any heat source like a radiator.
How to keep hot foods hot.

•In addition to keeping perishable foods cold, hot foods — such as soup, chili or stew — should be kept in an insulated bottle.
•Add hot water to the insulated bottle. Let it stand for a few minutes. Then empty and fill with the hot food.
Finally, encourage your kids to wash their hands before and after eating. A moist towelette

Babies and Biting: Tips for Parents

February 29th, 2012

Babies are cute and often playful. Biting, though, is not cute if you’re on the receiving end. How can you teach your baby or toddler not to use his or her teeth that way?

Why do babies and toddlers bite?
Starting in infancy, babies use their mouths to explore the world around them. They will suck, taste, and chew anything they can get their mouths on. As the first teeth come in, many babies enjoy gnawing on objects or special toys to help with the pain of teething. Breast-fed babies may start to bite down while they nurse, which can be very painful for mom.

Parents, siblings, and children at daycare may also get bitten when a baby wants to get their attention. No spot is safe – those razor-sharp teeth may leave tiny bruises on someone else’s knees, hands, shoulders, or face.

Older babies and toddlers may bite to get attention, too. Sometimes they’re just testing out cause and effect: “What will happen if I bite daddy?” Or they may use their teeth because they feel frustrated, angry, or threatened. This behavior is common in children, most of whom outgrow it by the time they turn 3.

What’s the best way to react?

•For infants: Some parents find that their babies respond to natural reactions, such as a loud “ouch!” or the crying of a sibling. Otherwise, a calm but firm “no” will do, even if baby is too young to really understand what it means. Then you can offer the baby a safe teething toy instead.
•If you’re nursing: Don’t pull back because that can cause sore nipples. Instead, carefully break the latch with your finger. A biting baby may be distracted or simply not hungry. Move to a quiet, darkened room, if possible. If that doesn’t help, end the feeding and try again later.
•For toddlers: Bring the child to a quiet spot and sit him or her down. Your toddler may feel sad and confused, so be comforting but firm. Explain that biting hurts people, so you don’t bite. If the child is old enough, talk in simple terms about what led to the biting. Was it to get your attention? Did another child take a toy? Was he or she tired of waiting for someone? Did something frighten your child? Never hit a child or bite the child back to show what it feels like. This will just teach your child aggressive behavior.
How can you prevent biting in the first place?
For infants, make sure they have plenty of teething toys. Older babies may enjoy gnawing on a wet washcloth that has been in the freezer for about a half hour, If you see your baby lunging with an open mouth toward a part of your body, hold your baby away from you instead of letting him or her make contact.

Toddlers may show signs of frustration or anger just before they bite. Watching them carefully during playtime, especially if they’re around other children, should offer clues. If you see conflicts between kids starting to escalate, stepping in can help thwart a bite. Tell the frustrated child that you know how he or she is feeling and be gentle. Then suggest that he or she play with another toy and redirect him or her away from the situation.

Most babies and toddlers will bite their parents or peers at some point. But a little patience can go a long way toward stopping this negative behavior.