Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunscreen Wars

Summer is not my favorite season, though I do appreciate the long-awaited joys it brings my children. I have to love it for their sakes. As a child I lived in San Diego off and on, with a few years off here and there to complete military tours in Germany, England, Guam and Sicily. The allure of the beach was strong, as it is for most children, but after leaving the city a couple years after college, I never looked back, except to visit friends.

I'm sure most of my wrinkles and moles date back to my San Diego years; I'm probably lucky to have left when I did. Fortunately, I had enough maturity by age twenty-five to stay out of the sun for the duration of my twenties and thirties, with the exception of mountain hikes, during which I protected as best I could. I bought hook, line and sinker all the articles about ultraviolet evils.

It was common for parents to lather on sunscreen and insist on hats and protective clothing in California, but in Ohio we are surrounded by sun worshippers. One finds tanning salons on every corner. Few people, including children and babies, don hats. Sunscreen, as far as I can tell, is not an essential summer item for most families.

True, it can be a veritable rain forest here; we see our fair share of clouds year round. I shared the contrasts with my native-Ohioan aunt recently, and asked if she thought there was more skin cancer in the cloudy states. She told me that of her six children, only one has not had cancerous moles removed. Yikes! People are excited when the sun is out, understandably. They just want to soak it up. I don't blame them, and sometimes I let my guard down; especially when other childcare hassles start weighing me down.

Yet another study and slew of articles came out recently regarding revised sunscreen recommendations. No more oxybenzone. It's a cancer causing agent. That's just swell, since most of the bottles we've used in the past two years, since the last recommendations came out, have included this evil chemical. We're more than a little irritated, and feel powerless to ensure real protection for our children. Moreover, putting our trust in the new recommendations is going to be costly. We finally found two of the recommended lotions - Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SunBlock and Baby Lizard Australian Sunscreen. They cost a small fortune for just a few ounces.

Along with the use of these new lotions, we've decided to try and wait until 2 p.m. for our outdoor fun, when the rays are less damaging and the backyard is mostly shaded. Not convenient at all, but I do so hate lathering everyone up, especially more than once a day. I had loved using the newer spray sunscreens, which made it a whole lot less painful to get protection on my three wiggly kiddos. Despite precaution, they all have some new color. Any color is bad, or so we're told. I feel like I'm losing this battle.

The Vitamin D vs. sunscreen question has doctors and scientists battling it out about whether twenty daily, unprotected minutes in the sun is an irresponsible evil, or a necessary boost to health. As long as they're confused, I'm confused.

Then there's that summer battle about what to give the kids to drink to keep them hydrated. Pediatricians LOVE to recommend that kids be forced to drink water. No one is more sold on water than I am; my only beverages are nonfat milk and water. But the kids? Nope, not sold. I compromise by giving them diluted Country Time Lemonade. When offered only water, they drink much less, which I think is far worse for their health than the less than sixty calories they get from a diluted glass of Country Time. I do watch closely for any other food dye in their diets; Country Time does have that evil.

I can't wait for fall! But I'll keep up this charade of liking summer, for now. The fireflies ARE really cool, I have to admit.

Please, share your success and tips for healthy summer beverages. Have you been able to keep your kids hydrated with water?

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