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What Parents Should Look Out for This Summer

Posted on Jun 04, 2018

Patrick Mularoni, M.D.

Summer is finally here and the kids are excited to play all day and for many parents it means no homework to check up on at night. With the summer here and all the playing outside there are unique risks for kids. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital gives parents tips on what they should be looking out for this summer.

The risk of swimming in hot fresh water.

Many adults worry about alligators when swimming in fresh water, but there is another risk that you can’t see. When fresh water ponds, lakes and even standing water in ditches gets warm, an amoeba can cause infection. We are typically talking about temperatures that are above 90 degrees and the amoeba grows best above 110 degrees, which is the typical temperature for bath water. This amoeba is not present in salt water but is often present in fresh water in the southern states when water temperatures start to rise in the summer time. You don’t catch it from drinking the water. It causes an infection when the water enters the nose usually from submerging your head in the water or being splashed in the face where this amoeba can gain access to the brain. This leads to inflammation and destruction of the brain within a week of exposure. In our area, kids are at risk when they play in freshwater bodies like ponds and lakes so we are not talking about swimming pools or even the ocean. So it’s best to be cautious in freshwater in the hot summer months when water temperatures get high.

Let’s talk about the risks of just being outside. Many parents push to get kids to wear sun glasses. It is often hard to get kids to wear them. Is it worth the struggle?

This is a hard one because the easy answer is YES. But getting kids into sunglasses is often easier said than done. I personally can’t leave the house without having my glasses on, but it seems that kids can tolerate the glare a lot better. The earlier you can get kids into sunglasses the better. They can protect the retina or visual surface of the eye from harmful UVa and UV b radiation. If you can’t get them to keep them on, then a baseball hat can provide some shade for the eyes. The best thing to do is to have them on hand and offer them to your child often. With increased availability, they may become accustomed to wearing a hat and glasses when they are in the sun.

Speaking of the sun, there is a new push to avoid certain sunscreens when swimming in the ocean. What are these new “reef safe” sunscreens that are popping up on store shelves?

There are essentially two types of sunscreen that you can choose. The most common is sunscreen that contains chemicals such as Oxybenzone, which absorb UV rays protecting the skin from these harmful rays. The second type of sunscreen often is called physical sunscreens, which use micro-particles zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sit on top of your skin to deflect UV rays. This is the white you may see on a lifeguard’s nose, but now there are products that dry clear. This is the sunscreen often being advertised as reef safe because the chemicals in absorbing sunscreens have been found to damage coral reefs. In Hawaii, a bill was recently passed that will ban the sale of chemical sunscreens in 2021. The environmental impact of sunscreens is important, but the problem is that physical sunscreens can get in the eyes causing irritation and can rub off easier because it is not meant to be absorbed into the skin. So, what is a parent to do? Well the best advice is to use UV protecting clothing. Consider a long-sleeve UV protection shirt and a hat when going out for a day at the beach. This will decrease the areas that you need to concentrate on reapplying and provide a reliable way to avoid a sunburn this summer.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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