What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Kids Sunscreens…

Summer On The Dock

I had no idea when I first became a parent of the variety of ingredients in kids sunscreens and how scary some of them could be.

And then one July day when my daughter was 2 she experienced a serious allergic reaction to a conventional sunscreen. Her wee body swelled terribly and turned beet red. Frightening.

Categorized by doctors as a ‘hyper allergic reaction’ it was something I never wanted to experience again.

And so the label-reading and researching began. The sunscreen that caused the reaction turned out to be a chemical stew. Try to find out what your child is allergic to when there are multiple potential culprit ingredients,  It included some likely suspects including oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, isobutane, synthetic fragrance and homosalate. Enough to make a new mom cringe and her baby’s skin crawl.

The bottom line is I wish I had known before I slathered my first born in sunscreen that it could be much worse in many ways than what I was trying to guard her against.

Now I choose ONLY mineral-based sunscreens. Not only did my daughter have a reaction to the chemical-based stuff but in all my research I found concerns of endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity and cancer associated with commonly used synthetic sunscreens ingredients. Horrific for any parent to think of.

Only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide cut the mustard now. These minerals create a physical barrier and are not relying on chemical UV absorbers to do the work. As a bonus they do not sting eyes as do the chemical sunscreens and you don’t have to wait any length of time before going in the sun. Once applied, you are good to go.

Although there are MANY fabulous, SAFE sunscreen brands as per the Environmental Working Group, I do have my favourites that have served my extremely sensitive, allergic daughter well over the past few years:

Dr Robin For Kids SPF 30

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Best For: Super-sensitive-skinned, allergy or eczema-prone kids. No synthetics, no nut or seed ingredients, no fragrance or gluten. Bonus: It’s formulated by a pediatric dermatologist.

 

 

Thinkbaby SPF 50 / Thinksport kids SPF 50

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Best For: Sensitive and allergy-prone kids who like a little bit of scent. Still safe but yummy, all-natural scent.  My allergy-prone daughter is crazy for this stuff now.

 

 

COOLA Baby SPF 50

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Best For: Babies and very fair-skinned wee ones. Best to stay out of the sun of course but if you must, this super-safe, unscented formula offers a great physical barrier.

 

Good news is that there are lots of great sunscreens.  Do you homework here and make sure to choose something super-safe. You will find different brands carried in different areas so best to do your own research on a brand you might be interested in so you feel rest-assured. Happy and safe sun-screening!

Is Your Child Suffering From This Not-So-Well-Known Allergy?

Most of us are well-aware that tree nuts, dairy, soy, corn, seafood and other foods can cause serious issues to those allergic to them.  However it is not so well-known that harsh, synthetic chemicals can also cause serious allergic reactions especially in children.

I found out the hard way a few years ago, when I slathered my then 2 year old’s body in a big brand chemical-based sunscreen thinking I was protecting her. The result was frightening. Her wee body swelled and turned red from head to toe. Luckily in our case no swelling of the throat occurred. The medical doctors attending to her described the situation as a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.

However, as many parents of allergic children know, you NEVER let your guard down. You arm yourself the best way you know how and are always on guard. With allergies you can’t assume what the ‘next time’ could bring.  I now live life avoiding chemicals in my daughter’s products that could be suspect in fear of a similar or worse episode.

I was happy this week when CBCHealth raised awareness of chemical allergies. Their article documented the case of an otherwise healthy 8 year old girl who had an allergic reaction to a synthetic chemical in a children’s product. The girl was having her mouth wiped constantly with baby wipes containing methylisothiazolinone (aka MI or MIT). The picture of the young girl causes me upset. Unfortunately her parents had no idea what was in the wipes and the issue synthetic chemicals can cause.

MI is a very commonly used preservative that has been on my personal ‘hotlist’ since my daughter’s episode (it was one of the chems making up the chemical stew that was her sunscreen that day).  You will find this chemical on Health Canada’s Hotlist of cosmetic chemicals…a list of the nastiest chems known to be used in cosmetics in Canada. And if you research MI, you will also find medical studies linking it to neurotoxicity. All good reason for any parent to avoid methylisothiazolinone in their family’s products.

Also according to the CBC article the girl’s allergy was initially mis-diagnosed as impetigo or eczema and she was prescribed steroid creams and antibiotics.  As the baby wipes were still being used, the prescription drugs did nothing to clear up her skin. Makes me wonder how many other kids may have been similarly mis-diagnosed? And how many parents are not aware of the potential issues caused to children from commonly-used synthetic chemicals? How many parents think their child’s eczema-like symptoms may be an inherent skin condition as this girl’s family did?

Once I my guard down. My husband took my daughter to a classmate’s birthday party when she was in kindergarten.  It was being held in the family’s backyard. Being mid-June, the mom hosting the party opted to slather the child-guests upon arrival in big-brand sunscreen (full of the same chemicals that caused our family grief a few years before).  I never considered someone else would put product on my child’s body. As my husband ran to the car to retrieve our zinc-based sunscreen, the hostess was insisting not to bother as she had enough for all. In my perfect world all parents would be aware that products other than food can cause serious allergic reaction.

I understand navigating chemicals is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Fortunately, I have the advantage of having studied environmental chemistry at university. Since my daughter’s allergic reaction I have delved deeper into researching everyday household chemicals, all health issues they are linked to as well as alternative products which do not contain controversial chemicals. And I now love to talk chemicals to interested parents in hopes of helping out. So feel free to ask!

A Celebration and Junk Food For All??!

Junk food for all! That was the scene in my 4 year olds classroom yesterday morning when I dropped her off at 9am. What? Parents weren’t informed of any reason nor given the option of making comment on the junk being given out in class that day. Usually we know of a party or celebration and can act accordingly.

Confused, I went to the school office to enquire. Why was my child being given junk food at school?! I explained…To me it’s an issue on so many levels.  So many food sensitivities ie. gluten, dairy, eggs are just being discovered at this tender age. And is there a person on the planet who thinks a high sugar treat is conducive to learning?

My daughter is too young to be able to speak about detail of what she does and doesn’t eat at home. I am not sure if the school relying on young kids to say ‘no thank-you my mom wouldn’t approve’? OR ‘We are a’junk food adverse family..no thanks’ OR ‘I barely eat gluten as my daddy is sensitive to it so it may bother my tummy’ OR  I only weigh 36 pounds so I won’t deal well with all that sugar’. Is anyone expecting that sort of thing from a 4 year old?

In retrospect I am still wondering how this all went down. Have schools become confused? The crap being doled out yesterday in class was labelled ‘school safe’.  But clearly peanut-free doesn’t make it a good choice for all and shouldn’t give schools the right to give it out at will to such young kids without their parents knowledge.

Needless to say, my child came home with a nasty tummy ache. To anyone who thinks it is fun to give young kids these things without knowing if it is in their daily diet or not, here’s the scoop… If you cause a wee kid a health issue, even a seemingly minor tummyache it was not such a celebratory thing for all. Maybe its time we respect all of each other’s dietary choices no matter how foreign it may seem to us.

And it would appear from my experience that there is no policy on handing out food to kids past that of severe allergens. I was asked if I wanted my daughter to be left out of such food festivities in future. What? is anyone listening…What place does junk food have in a school, handed out to young kids?  I was informed by the teacher (who I have the utmost respect for as a teacher..she is quite fabulous really) that she didn’t know the mom was bringing in the snack for the whole class to celebrate the birth of her new baby so couldn’t inform the parents in advance…Wow..and so you just hand it out? Clearly the Toronto District School Board (or at least the school) needs a policy around this.

Any other parents have experience with this? Please share as I am at a loss…