Baby Staying Safe in the Summer Sun and Understanding SPF


Do you miss the sun throughout the winter but in the summer months feel like you should live in a cave to protect your infant’s delicate skin from the sun? You are not alone in your frustration. A cave may not be necessary, but the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that sun protection should begin in infancy and continue throughout life.

However, the AAD warns, “It may only take 15 minutes of midday summer sun to burn a fair-skinned (child).” Dr. Aundria Speropoulos, a pediatrician at Child Care Limited in Kansas City, MO, also warns parents, “Infant skin is more likely to burn in a short time. I have seen infants with second-degree burns (blisters) to their faces because the parent thought the baby would be safe on a cloudy day at a sibling’s soccer game.”

Consider these American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations:

Younger than 6 months
Try to keep out of the sun. If complete shade is unavailable, use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and back the hands. (Light colored clothing that is tightly woven, covered strollers and sun umbrellas are also recommended.)

Older than 6 months
Apply (sunscreen) to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes.

What is SPF?

Dr. Trisha Prossick, a Shawnee Mission, KS dermatologist with American Dermatology Associates, says, “Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of protection against only UVB rays. It does not reflect protection against UVA; but both UVA and UVB are damaging to the skin.”

How Much Protection Is Enough?

“Most baby products on the market have an SPF greater than 30: The higher the SPF, the higher the UVB ray protection,” Speropoulos says. “Parents need to buy a product with ‘broad spectrum’ coverage, which means UVA and UVB ray protection. Products with a physical barrier such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide offer even greater safety from the sun.”

Five young friends in swimming pool smilingApply and Reapply Sunscreen

Prossick suggests, “Sunscreens should be applied 20 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and should be reapplied after 2 hours or after any swimming. Even water resistant sunscreens lose efficacy in the water after 40 minutes and should be reapplied.”

Treatment for Sunburn

“Once you get the sunburn, you have done the damage, and there is not much to do other than alleviate the symptoms,” Prossick says. “Therefore, prevention is the best medicine. Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with the pain or discomfort.”

NOTE: Make sure to check with your medical provider for correct dosing and use the appropriate measuring device (i.e. manufacturer’s provided measuring cup or a medication syringe from the pharmacy).

Prossick also says, “Cool water or whole milk compresses can be applied for 20 minutes at a time to provide a cooling and soothing effect. If you choose to do the milk compresses, please wash it off afterwards. Moisturizers with or without aloe and over the counter hydrocortisone can also provide some relief.”

Recommended Products for Sensitive Skin

Speropoulos tells parents to look for “hypo-allergenic, fragrance and dye-free sunscreen. There are so many good choices these days, but I like Neutrogena baby, California baby or Aveeno baby.”

Are Darker Skin Tones Safe?

According to Mayo Clinic, “You need to use sunscreen even if you have darker skin pigment, tan easily and can tolerate longer periods of sun exposure without burning. The sun’s energy damages DNA of skin cells.”

The hardest part of protecting your child is remembering to get the sunscreen on the child and then reapplying at the correct time. A sunburn can take up to 24 hours to fully develop, so don’t think if you don’t see a pink tinge on your child, she is safe.

Finally, before you leave for your sun outing, don’t forget to check expiration dates on your sunscreens. They lose potency after expiration and will be ineffective for proper sun protection.

(previously posted on NML on 6/16/10)

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Making my Daughter Cry was a Cinch


One of my munchkins gets blocked tear ducts. She usually wakes up with it, and startles the family every time because she resembles Rocky Balboa. Young moms at Target run the opposite direction, shielding their babies from my daughter. We have to avoid the ER for fear of being assigned an abuse caseworker.

For most people who get repeated duct problems, you apply a warm washcloth to the affected area, and whatever is blocking the duct will fall out from the dilated hole. Doesn’t take much to fix this problem. Sounds easy enough, right? Genetics sometimes slaps you in the face. But as long as there isn’t an infection, it’s easy breezy to take care of.

The other morning my daughter came downstairs to show off her fat eye.

“Mom, my eye hurts again,” she complained.

Looking at it closer, I check to make sure she doesn’t have pink eye, a sty, or blue eyeliner. She’s eight, so I’m fairly certain the latter isn’t an issue. It’s just the nurse in me, covering all bases.

“Honey, looks like you have another blocked tear duct,” I say reassuringly.

“Well get it out, already!”

Patience is something we are working on.

After several attempts to get the bugger to pop, I try to remember what I had done the last time to cure her. Pushing Momnesia aside, I remembered she had a stubborn one that lasted five days. But what had been the final therapy to get her eye back to a normal size?

She cried.


So my snarling child, who was irritated that she had THIS again was more mad than sad. Could I, as her mother, make her cry without any reason to punish her? She hadn’t done anything wrong yet. It was 8:00am.

I couldn’t order a cranky, tired girl to take a shower, producing several types of waterworks. She was well rested and smelling clean from bathing the night before.

I could pinch her hard or pull her hair. But I gave that up on the playground in 1975. The thought of hurting a child was bringing ME to tears!

What if I lied to her, telling some horrific story? Would I be forgiven later and how much would the therapy bills set me back? She had to cry and I was the only one who could help my poor baby.

After considerable contemplation, I knew what I must do.

“I have something to ask you,” I meekly said. “Have you ever thought about what would happen if you couldn’t see me every day?”

I have no idea where this stupid question came from or what direction I was going. I just let it sneak out of my mouth and quickly regretted my decision.

“Or Daddy? What if you could only see him every other weekend?”

Worst Mom ever. I totally suck! WTH?

My sweet sensitive girl looked up at me with her long eyelashes, and I flashed back to when she was the perfect baby in my arms.

“Why would you say that?” she painfully asked.

Wanting to take back my words, I said, “It won’t happen to you. But there are some kids who have to divide their time with their parents. Wouldn’t that be hard?”

Seriously, I was going to pay for this damage; but at least she wouldn’t lose an eye.

I watched tears slowly appear. Then to my surprise, she threw her head back and wailed. An excruciating noise which if in a Greek tragedy, would have turned me deaf until the end of time.

At this point, I was rooting for crocodile tears. “Tsk, tsk-ing” and “I know-ing” until she produced the real deal.

She sobbed, “How do kids do that? If Daddy couldn’t kiss me goodnight every night, it would be the worst thing ever!!”

Knowing she had produced enough tears and watching the blocked duct open up like Mt. St. Helens, she continued to drown the collar of her shirt.

“Now you know this will never happen to you, right?” I said in my most convincing tone. “Your Daddy and I love each other too much to do that to you girls.”

“Really? (sniff, hiccup) You promise?” she begged.

What have I done here? For the love of jumbo-sized tissue boxes, I’m scaring the crap out of her.

After she calmed down and I rocked her on my lap, I realized something. Geesh, it hardly took any prodding to get this child to produce real tears! Less than 15 seconds.

What a talent! Give this girl her close up, Hollywood. This Mama is prepping her munchkin for her starring role.

I guess I could have turned on the movie Steele Magnolias or Terms of Endearment.

Huh. Didn’t think of that one.


Embracing Your Weirdness is What Makes You Awesome

Mama, I can’t do that! I don’t want the kids to think I’m weird.

My daughter’s words struck my abdomen, like a knife plunging into my soul.

“Weird!” She said the “W” word.

The first time I heard my child fearing others’ opinions, similar memories of mine were stirred up. Childhood fights on the playground, bickering in the girl’s room, or even worse … debating whether “Babe” cologne or “Love’s Baby Soft” was the best fragrance. It could get nasty.

Recently, I read a quote by Meryl Streep, which struck a nerve.

“What makes you different or weird — that’s your strength.”

Seriously, if I’d heard that advice when I was young, I might have avoided 25 percent of my childhood angst. I was a professional weird kid. If they had turned our fifth-grade spelling bee into a standing Weird-Off, I would have gone to Nationals. I was that proficient. In college, I tried to major in weird, but was denied. Theater and Film was an adequate backup.

With Halloween around the corner and people’s gory, graphic yard art popping up, one starts to ponder weirdness. (Oh, and thanks for my kids’ nightmares. I really enjoy a tiny foot in my face in the middle of the night.)

My journey of weird started at an early age. Lip-synching to Donny Osmond, into my purple hairbrush, with a red sequined tutu on my head. This was standard fare at my house. The kids in the neighborhood came to expect it, as did my parents.

Although the only day I could parade my weirdness was Halloween. Costumes mandatory? How glorious!

My costumes started off innocently. A bunny, a witch with a big rubber nose, and a picturebook-perfect Raggedy Ann, complete with a full wig constructed of red yarn. But those costumes don’t sound so weird, do they? It wasn’t until I had the choice of what to be, instead of my parents choosing, that my flair flew.

In the fourth grade, I was Phyllis Diller. Yes, I teased my hair high, put on obnoxious makeup and hot pink-framed glasses. I was a dead ringer for the comedienne. The best part was the reaction I would get at neighbors’ doors.


(gasp) Oh, my. What are you, honey?

Phyllis Diller.

The answer was either followed by laughter or absolute confusion as to why a young girl would choose this over a cute pumpkin or ghost outfit. A boring ghost uniform would have been booed from my bleachers.

Junior high was a time for many kids to bow out of costumes in my town — but not for me. I still wanted to take my younger brother around to houses, so I could steal his candy later. What was his costume? A werewolf, of course. And living up to high standard “weirdo” expectations, I was a full-term pregnant ballerina.

There were countless kooky costumes, too many to list. But those were the years I embraced my weirdness. However, at some point I began to worry what others would think of me. I’m certain this is a developmental stage that all humans face. It’s how you react to it and learn from that uncertainty that defines your character.

So when my munchkin said she was afraid of what the other kids would think, I pulled her over to my computer to teach her about Meryl Streep. I wanted my daughter to see someone who is famous — a great role model — and learn that a woman of that caliber knows being “weird and different” is awesome!

I never imagined Ms. Streep would help me with my parenting skills. Makeup and acting tips, maybe. But her lesson is being practiced in my house now.

Mama, I don’t mind being weird, if when I grow up, I like myself.

Standing ovation, my munchkin. Standing ovation!

previously printed in The Kansas City Star October 29, 2014


Teaching Children about STRANGER DANGER

LillieThe other day I heard a young grade schooler say to her mother, “I can’t talk to them. They’re a stranger.” Initially, I thought what an excellent job that parent did educating her daughter; but then I quickly realized the mother had instructed her child to ask a store employee a question, who was only 3 feet away, yet the child was paralyzed. If all adults are the enemy, what are children to do when they need help in an emergency or are lost?


The phrase “Stranger Danger” has been pounded into our kids’ heads so much that possibly some parents may have done reverse damage. Children need to be able to talk to adults, and that includes strangers. says, “It’s better to teach kids when it’s appropriate to talk to strangers and when it is not.” Let them know when they are with you it is appropriate to talk to people they may not know because you are there to protect them. “But if your child is alone and approached by a stranger, that’s a different story.” The American Academy of Pediatrics offers, “Instead of teaching (your child) that he’s surrounded by danger, teach him that he is strong, capable, and can count on you to keep him safe, as long as he can tell you about it.”


Question: What do molesters and abductors look like?

Answer: Like everybody else walking down the street. These predators don’t look scary, but sometimes appear friendlier to kids – that’s how they are able to draw them into their web. If a stranger comes up to your child while he or she is alone, they need to have the tools to protect them. Tell your kids if they are approached, they don’t have to be polite or say a word. Dr. Laurie Fisher, Overland Park, KS says, “Children don’t have to say anything. They should run away and tell an adult.” She also stresses that kids have a buddy system. “If they are going to be alone, make sure that they are not out after dark. And if they ever feel threatened, they need to yell loudly (that they don’t know the adult – “this is NOT my Daddy!”) and run away as fast as they can to a safe location.”

If an adult tries to touch their private area or asks them to touch theirs, they also need to know how to react. “I tell my patients it’s okay for parents and the doctor to look at their private area but it is off limits for anybody else,” says Dr. Fisher.

She also shares with her patient’s parents that they need to begin teaching their children their full names and their parent’s names by the age of 3 or 4. “By four or five years of age, children need to know their phone number and address.”


If your child wanders away from you in a public place, they need to know what to do. Go over these instructions with your child often, so she clearly understands the directions. Officer Gary Mason, Public Information Officer with the Overland Park Police Department says, “Have your child go up to either the police, security officer or a store employee and let them know they are separated from their parent. Also, a mom or dad with young kids is usually a safe place for a lost child to get help.”


Creating a family “code word” which is not easily deciphered by a dangerous stranger is helpful to give your child the extra confidence needed to make a good decision. If you need someone to pick up your kids unplanned outside of school, there should be a password that your child knows. When the adult says to come with them, the child should be trained to ask, “What is the code word?” If the adult doesn’t know it, the child needs to run the other direction to get help from a trusted adult.

Having “stranger danger” discussions are never easy for parents; but putting it off for another day is just another day where your children could be underprepared to face a dangerous situation. Build up their self-esteem with these tools, review them often, and hopefully they will grow up confident and not fearing the world around them.


You’ve Got Lice Now Back Away


Happy first day of school, class! I am Mrs. Happy-to-be-Here and I will be your 1st grade teacher.

This is my first teaching job, so I am thrilled to have you all as my first students. Before we go sit on the happy rug in criss-cross applesauce to sing our school’s motto I have a few announcements:

First from our Principal, he says, “Go Chipmunks!! We’re going to have a nut-free year!” Well, that’s cute, right?

Next our school nurse, Nurse Mitsy has also sent me a little note. (reading aloud) “Please tell your class discreetly that there is an outbreak of head lice in the first grade. Try not to scare…”

“Holy guacamole!” (running to the back of the room, edging tightly to the wall) “Nobody move or touch anything!! I’m going to find a fly swatter and some Purell! Do NOT Move!”

This is not far off from many elementary school scenarios across the country. My overly creative brain is causing me to scratch the daylights out of my flesh every couple of minutes. And don’t think I’m not putting my daughter’s hair into a braid, so it won’t swing around and brush into a lice-ridden classmate. 

I’m not harvesting these lock-busters as of yet. YET.

For those of you who are not as fortunate, and your family has been given the Cinderella treatment plan: The don’t pay attention to your sister, and let’s make her do so many loads of laundry, so she will have a nervous breakdown. I want to say, I’m so sorry!! I’m sure it feels like the end of the world, but really it’s more like a prison sentence that you will be released from in 2 weeks. Here are my nurse tips on how to treat and rid lice from your family and home…


Whether you have them, are treating it, or just reading this article, I bet your head starts itching and your face contorts into unphotographic poses by the end.

Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, “Head lice are not a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene, and are not responsible for the spread of any disease,” the public still dreads talking about it. “No healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice,” says the AAP, “and no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned. Your child can return to childcare or school after one treatment with anti-lice shampoo,” is the policy.


As always check with your medical provider first for their advice. Over-the-counter treatments are effective, but it’s mandatory you follow directions explicitly. Also, do NOT over treat. Studies show if some treatments are overused resistance to some of the medications can occur.

Leslie, an Overland Park mom, said she had lice in her home a few years ago. She was brushing her daughter’s hair and saw a louse “moving really fast. I put it on a piece of tape and took it to a practitioner who agreed to start treatment.” Leslie suspected her daughter might have picked it up from sharing t-ball helmets, so she notified the team.

Then she used one of the common Lice Elimination systems containing shampoo, comb-out gel and the home control spray, for furniture and car surfaces. Luckily she said, “it was only a mild case and no one else got it.” If you see the critters:

  • Wash all bed linens and clothing that were recently worn by anyone in your home who’s infested in very hot (130° F [54.4° C]), then put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Have bed linens, clothing, and stuffed animals and plush toys that can’t be washed put in airtight bags for 2 weeks.
  • Dry-clean anything that can’t be washed (like stuffed animals). Or put them in airtight bags for at least 3 weeks.
  • Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car), then throw away the vacuum cleaner bag.
  • Soak hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You also can clean them in hot water for 10 minutes or just throw them away

(Source: Nemour Foundation 2014)

Lice Facts:

  • The nits (eggs) hatch into lice in 1 week.
  • Off the scalp, nits can’t survive over 2 weeks.
  • Adult lice survive 3 weeks on the scalp or 24 hours off scalp.
  • A louse is the size of a sesame seed.
  • Live lice can transmit lice to another child.
  • Transmission is from direct head-to-head contact. Lice cannot jump or fly to another person’s hair.

(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, July 2010)

So are you itchy yet? Just remember that kids are sensitive to any discussions of their infestation. Keeping names out of, especially around kids who may not be able to censor themselves, will help the mental anguish which goes along with it at school.

Stacey Hatton is a kids RN, mom of 2 feisty munchkins and blogs at Nurse MommyLaughs.