As we step into summer weather and activities, there are a few things to consider to make sure our families are protected from the elements. Our Pediatric Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Kendra Featherman, along with Dr. Christine White, offer some protocols for sun exposure and wildfire smoke for adults and kids.

Sun Protection

Wear Head and Face Protection

Make sure to plan for shade and sunhats anytime the sun is bright, especially for kids.  We recommend sunhats from Sunday Sunhats, as there are lots of great options for adults and kids. 

The Kids’ Play Hat is what I prefer for children, although sizing can be tricky unless you want to get your tape measure out. Here is what I recommend:  small hats work great for babies, medium for toddlers 2-4 years and then large for 5+ years. 

Avoid Peak Exposure Hours

Avoid long exposures in direct sunlight from peak UV hours around 10am-4pm.  This is the time to REALLY apply sunscreen regularly on kiddos (and yourself). 

Wear Sunscreen

Babies can start wearing sunscreen at 6 months old and should be a mineral based sunscreen. 

Babies under 6 months old shouldn’t be in direct sunlight as they cannot regulate their body temperature and easily become overheated (or if around water, they can become too cold). Around 6 months is when they can start regulating their temperature and it’s safer for them to have short excursions in warmer weather.

Recommended Sunscreens

For sunscreens look for zinc based Environmental Working Group (EWG) Certified sunscreen like Babo Baby Face Sunscreen which is easy to order from stores like Target, Amazon or Thrive Market. I like this sunscreen has it comes in a stick applicator (like a tiny stick of deodorant) which is much less mess than a lotion when slathering a squirmy toddler. 

A great local option for sunscreen is KeliGreen which is organic, has excellent ingredients and you can get local refills to reduce waste!!

Treat Sunburns

If you or your child do get a sunburn, make sure to keep hydrated, as enough sun for a sunburn usually equates to mild to moderate dehydration. You can use aloe vera gel and a cold compress of chamomile tea topically on the sunburn to help soothe and heal the skin. If there is severe redness, the sunburn looks shiny or any blistering this should be seen by a doctor. 

For older kids or adults, another good option is to increase the intake of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E along with the minerals zinc and selenium. An easy option is Carlson’s brand supplement called ACES+Zinc.  For teens, dose by body weight or check with their physician. For adults, take 2 capsules 2 times daily with an additional amount of Vitamin C as tolerated up to 5000-6000 mg a day. This can be very helpful with resolving the burn faster. If you take too much Vitamin C too close together in dosing, you can get a loose bowel. However if your need is high, such as with a sunburn, you can likely tolerate a higher dose than usual.

Homeopathic Cantharis is also helpful with burns of any kind. Get a 30c potency, take 3 pellets 3 times a day with an acute burn for up to 2-3 days until it starts to feel better.

If the burn is severe, seek some personalized medical advice from your physician. 

Wildfire Smoke

Routinely Check Air Quality

Missoula air quality can be checked in the weather app or on the Missoula County Health Department website here.

Filter Your Air

Make sure you have some sort of air filtration system before wildfire smoke hits this summer.  There are many ways to do this:

  • Use your home’s HVAC system.  Even if you don’t have air conditioning you can set your HVAC to “circulate” or “fan” mode to keep the air moving throughout the home and going through the HVAC filters.  HVAC filters have a MERV rating from 1-16, the higher the number, the smaller the particles the filter catches. I recommend the highest you can find, and a minimum of MERV 13 for wildfire smoke. Most people are surprised to find these filters should be changed every 3 months for regular maintenance. During active wildfire smoke season, I recommend changing them every 4 weeks.
  • Use HEPA filters in bedrooms, when we sleep, it is the time when our body heals and recovers from exposure during the day.  The best air filter is EnviroKlenz  but GermGuardian is a good and more cost effective option.
  • Add a Filter to a Box Fan. A simple inexpensive box fan can be paired with a furnace filter to create an effective home air cleaner. There are lots of examples out there, here’s a link (click) to a simple video explanation. 

Increase Antioxidants

  • Nutrition. Everyone should be getting plenty of antioxidants in their summer diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies but supplementing during days of smoke exposure is supportive so the lung tissue can recover and heal.  This is especially for people with sensitive lungs (kiddos, older adults, and people with asthma).
  • Glutathione. Tri-Fortify Glutathione in watermelon or orange flavor is the best tasting liquid glutathione that’s easy to get kids to take. Adults love it too.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine. The precursor to glutathione that can help make mucous easier to clear.
  • Fruit Anthocyanins. Tasty, concentrated fruit antioxidants (think grape and berry juice turned into medicine).

Limit Outdoor Activity

When wildfire smoke is present, it is helpful to decrease time outdoors and/ or limit vigorous activity outdoors. I’ve seen kids that have normal healthy lungs prescribed steroids to preserve their lung function after too much exposure. The damage to sensitive lungs is not worth the long-term damage that can occur.  The rule of thumb is if you can smell wildfire smoke, you should stay inside.

Here is a helpful chart to help you decide if air quality is good enough to stay outside.

In Missoula, the Public Library, Currents Aquatic Center, and the YMCA or your gym are good options to help burn off some energy during poor air quality days.  It’s also a good time to plan a day trip out of the Missoula Valley, to somewhere where smoke levels might be lower.  Here is a link to Missoula area activities that are free/ low cost (also has outdoor activities for when air quality is good).

To make an appointment with Dr. White or Dr. Featherman for you or your child, call
Natura’s front desk.
Read more about Dr. Featherman here.
Read more about Dr. White here.