With summer in full force, now is the perfect time to get your game plan in place to help your family stay healthy and thriving in the summer sun. Skin protection and good hydration are two of the most important elements of summer safety. We are going to share with you nontoxic tips for safeguarding your loved ones in the sun all summer long.

Smart Skin Protection

What you put on your body is a just as important as what you put in it. Why? Because what goes onto our skin gets absorbed directly into our bloodstreams.

An alarming new study reveals this very fact about sunscreen and confirms that safety testing on the active ingredients in over-the-counter blocks has never been thoroughly conducted. UV-blocking chemicals are getting into our circulation, and we have no idea what kind of impact they’re having on our short and long-term health.

But not wearing sunscreen is simply not an option, and luckily there is reliable information available on what is safest to use. Here are some good rules of thumb to follow when choosing and applying a good block:

  1. Choose a mineral-based sunscreen over one laden with harmful chemicals.
  2. Search for a block that offers a broad spectrum of protection to prevent sunburn and other types of skin damage.
  3. Opt for an SPF between 15 and 50+: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) cautions that higher SFPs (anything beyond 50+) are misleading and give a false sense of security of staying outside longer than recommended.
  4. Ingredients to avoid:
    • Retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A. Recent studies indicate that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, can make your skin more susceptible to the sun’s rays, and could potentially increase risk of skin cancer.
    • Oxybenzone, synthetic hormone that could potentially disrupt the endocrine system (the glands in your body that make hormones) when it is absorbed into the skin.
  5. Good ingredients to look for: zinc oxide (the only safe active ingredient for kids), 3 percent avobenzone and/or Mexoryl SX.
  6. Avoid using suncreen aerosol spray. This type of spray pollutes the air with small particles that could be harmful to breathe.
  7. No insect repellent/sunscreen combos. Buy a separate nontoxic bug repellent, and use it before applying your nontoxic sunscreen.
  8. Reapply! Reapply! Reapply! Sunscreen’s protective powers can wane in the sun, wash off, or rub off on towels and clothing. We recommend reapplying every 2-3 hours.
  9. ALWAYS test a new block when applying it to your kid’s skin for the first time. Rubbing a small dab on the inner wrist and waiting a bit is recommended.

Helpful sunblock sources/recommendations: We strongly recommend checking out EWG’s Best Scoring Sunscreens for Kids, which offers a searchable database of the highest ranking and safest blocks on the market.

One of our favorite brands that’s great for the entire family is Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen. We carry their toxin-free, mineral-based lotion, stick, and *mist in both of our San Francisco offices.

(*Although the mist looks and acts as an aerosol, it is not – it’s an air pump and is completely safe for the environment.)

Best sun protection practices for babies:

Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies younger than 6 months as their skin is so thin that whatever you apply goes right in. In place of sunscreen, cover your infant’s skin with sun-protective clothing and hats. Reasonably restrict their time spent in direct sunlight and keep them in shaded areas as much as possible.

For babies over six months old, it’s important to apply sunscreen when you take them outside for more than a few minutes. Whether you’re headed to the park, the beach, or you’re taking a neighborhood stroll, apply a mineral-based sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, and reapply throughout the day.

Other helpful skin-saving tips:

  • Plan your fun around the sun. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm and UV radiation peaks at midday. Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower.
  • Find shade – or bring your own. Picnic under a tree, bring an umbrella or a canopy to wherever you plan on spending time outdoors.

Hydration Tips 

Increased exertion under the hot summer sun can put your kids at risk of excessive dehydration. Here are our pro prevention tips:

1. Drink plenty of fluids

Keep your kids sufficiently “watered” with lots and lots of water. Keep reusable bottles filled and chilled and available for easy access.  You can also “switch things up” by fortifying your water with flavor and nutrients by adding in limes, lemons, oranges, berries, or cucumbers.

Coconut water is also recommended as it’s chockfull of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium – and doesn’t contain a lot of sugar. It’s great for replenishing fluids and electrolytes lost from exercise and hot temperatures.

Fun kid tip: Freeze coconut water ice cubes or pops for a refreshing, summer treat!

2. Eat whole fruits and vegetables

3. Set time limits for outside play when the summer heat is greatest, again which is typically midday. This will help to ensure that your kids don’t overdo it.

4. Stay protected with probiotics 

A healthy gut helps to keep you hydrated! Beneficial bacteria help you absorb nutrients and electrolytes from food and drinks, which supports efficient hydration. Pro- and pre-biotics are essential for building and maintaining health-promoting bacteria.

Add some gut supportive foods to your list of summertime snacks. Our favorites are apples, kiwi, jicama, yogurt, coconut kefir, and sauerkraut.

We also recommend probiotic supplements and carry pharmaceutical grade options by Klaire Labs and BioGaia in our San Francisco offices.

Signs of dehydration:

When dehydration does occur, it can happen gradually or come on suddenly. Here are some common warning signs to watch for:

  • dark-colored urine
  • excessive sleepiness
  • extreme fussiness
  • extreme thirst
  • nausea/headache
  • urinating less often
  • low energy levels
  • no tears when crying

What if your kid has a little too much fun in the sun?  

Most mild cases of dehydration can be safely treated at home. Start with giving your kid small amounts of water or coconut water, waiting several minutes between “doses.” Avoid giving them sugary fluids such sports drinks as this can make dehydration worse.

Make sure they get some rest in a cool place. If there’s any question of severe dehydration, please seek professional pediatric advice ASAP.

If you have questions about our summer safety tips or have some of your own – we’d love to hear from you! Please give us a call at our San Francisco offices at 415.826.1701.

From all of us at GetzWell Personalized Pediatrics, we wish you and your family a fantastic summer!

little girl at beach showing surf shaka sign