From the earlobe to the inner eardrum, each part of the ear has an important function, so protect your ear with the right products. Keep the following in mind when selecting ear-care products:
- If you or a family member has an earache or diminished hearing for more than a day, talk to your doctor, as this can signal a serious health issue, such as an ear infection, which requires medical treatment.
- Internal ear parts are delicate and easily damaged; do not stick small objects into your ear canal, even if the product appears to be designed for this purpose.
- Earwax is produced by healthy ears and serves to protect against infection and damage.
- Ideally, ear canals never require cleaning, but certain conditions may make cleaning necessary. If one of these conditions, such as infections that cause earwax build up or connective tissue disease, affects you, talk to your doctor about how to safely clean your ear canals.
- Mineral oil or other drops for loosening earwax should only be used if you have an intact eardrum and no other known ear problems.
What they are: Different types of earplugs are designed to serve different purposes. Examples of earplugs include:
- Pressure: These earplugs slow the rate of air pressure change in the ear during airplane travel; this helps alleviate ear pain during take off and landing.
- Swimming and water: Earplugs designed for this purpose seal the ear to prevent water from entering the ear canal.
- Sound: These earplugs protect the ears from loud, potentially damaging sounds.
Why to buy: Earplugs are an inexpensive way to increase comfort during flying or water activities and to protect hearing in loud environments, such as during a concert or when working with power tools.
Things to consider: Earplugs come in varying sizes, shapes, and materials, so you may need to experiment to find a product that works well for you. Seek out child-specific earplugs for children, but ask your doctor first if it’s safe before you use these products in toddlers or infants.
What they are: Eardrops are designed to be dripped into the ear canal to address a specific issue. Examples of eardrop types include:
- Wax removal, designed to loosen earwax to facilitate removal from the ear canal
- Earache, developed to lessen the pain associated with an earache
- Drying aids, drops developed to help speed up the evaporation of water in the ear canal
- Homeopathic, designed to address conditions such as allergies or ear pain not associated with an infection
Why to buy: These products are relatively inexpensive and may help you manage minor ear issues at home. Homeopathic drops tend to be the most expensive type of eardrops.
Things to consider: If you have severe earaches or ear pain that lasts longer than a day, do not self-treat with eardrops. Follow all instructions carefully, consult your doctor before using eardrops in children, and if you get the OK from the doctor, use only child-specific eardrops for your kids.
What they are: Ear cleaners are designed to clean the outer portion of the ears or to remove dirt, debris, and wax from the ear canal.
Why to buy: The delicate skin on the outer ears may be irritated by regular soap, and a gentle ear cleaner may be a better option for some people. Regular use of an internal ear cleaner can help people with certain conditions keep their ear canals clear.
Things to consider: Use an internal ear cleaner regularly only if instructed to do so by your doctor or pharmacist.
- Illness, nerves, trying new foods—all sorts of things may throw your little one’s digestive system off track and cause constipation or diarrhea. Comfort your kids with safe, gentle, and effective products to help them go, or help them stop. And help keep your kids regular with a healthy diet containing plenty of fiber and water.
What they are: Stool softeners and osmotic laxatives are kid-friendly, stimulant-free products that ease constipation—from flavored powders you mix with juice, to chewable tablets, to rectal suppositories.
Why to buy: Stool softeners offer gentle, gradual relief from occasional constipation. Powders with oral docusate sodium also prevent dry, hard stools and generally work in 12 to 72 hours. Most chewable tablets contain the non-stimulant laxative magnesium hydroxide, known as “milk of magnesia,” and take effect in 30minutes to six hours. For more immediate relief, liquid glycerin suppositories are available in easy-to-use disposable applicators.
Things to consider: Ask a doctor before your child uses stool softeners or laxatives if they’re experiencing abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting; or have a sudden change in bowel habits lasting more than two weeks. These could be symptoms of a more serious condition. Stop using laxatives and stool softeners and consult a doctor if your child has rectal bleeding or still has no bowel movement after use.
What they are: Smaller dosage amounts of most adult anti-diarrheal medicines are safe and effective for children; recommended amounts are usually indicated on the label. Loperamide hydrochloride is the most common active ingredient and is safe for use by children six and older. It’s available in caplets, soft gels, and liquids. Chewable tablets and flavored liquids containing bismuth subsalicylate are safe for children over 12.
Why to buy: Anti-diarrheals help ease stomach discomfort and stop diarrhea symptoms.
Things to consider: Most anti-diarrheal products should not be used in children under six unless directed by a doctor. Children and teenagers who have or are recovering from chicken pox or flu-like symptoms should not use bismuth subsalicylate due to risk of Reye’s syndrome. Remember, when children suffer from diarrhea, they need to drink plenty of fluids. There are many convenient over-the-counter remedies for dehydration including popsicles enhanced with much-needed electrolytes.
Raising a child requires many decisions—and finding the right diaper is one of them. Our guide will help you balance the costs and benefits of different options to find the right diaper to meet your family’s needs. Keep the following in mind when selecting diapers for your baby:
- Diapers are designed to fit children based on age and size. Size tends to be more important, so if your baby is larger or smaller than what is believed to be the "average” size, you may need to pick the diaper a size or two up or down from your baby’s actual age.
- Different diaper brands and products have different shapes and one design will not work for all children. If you often struggle with diaper leakage, consider using a gender specific-diaper, which may fit your boy or girl better, or trying a different brand.
- Do not leave a diaper on for longer than recommended on the package. Leaving a child in a wet or dirty diaper can lead to diaper rash and skin infections.
- Consider your lifestyle. You may like that cloth diapers are more natural and may be more environmentally friendly than disposables, but if you’re a busy mom or you’re on the go a lot, cloth may not be practical.
- Diapers do not have to be an all-or-nothing commitment. If you like the idea of using cloth, give it a try, but you may want to keep a few disposables on hand to use in a pinch, such as when you’re traveling.
What they are: There are dozens of brands, sizes, and styles of disposable diapers, which are designed for a single use and then thrown away with the regular trash.
Why to buy: Disposable diapers tend to be the least expensive and for most people they are the most convenient. Different brands offer different prices and options regarding absorbency.
Things to consider: Some parents find high-absorbency, disposable diapers are so effective that they hinder potty training. If a toddler cannot feel that he or she is wet and uncomfortable, it may be harder for the child to make the connection between the urge to go to the bathroom and asking to go beforehand. Disposable diapers are often criticized as being the least environmentally friendly diaper option.
What they are: Environmentally friendly disposable diapers are similar to regular disposables, but instead of throwing them in the trash, you can flush them down the toilet.
Why to buy: If you like the convenience of disposables, but are concerned about generating large amounts of trash, environmentally friendly products can be the perfect solution.
Things to consider: Environmentally friendly diapers tend to be the most expensive option. Most brands require that you use a toilet plunger or stick to break up the diaper in the toilet before flushing to prevent toilet clogging. If you live in an older home, the plumbing may not be able to handle flushable diapers.
What they are: Cloth diapers are made from absorbent cotton or other materials and are used, washed, and reused. Cloth diapers can be purchased and washed at home, or you can use a diaper service to take away dirty diapers and deliver clean ones each week.
Why to buy: Many people like that cloth diapers are more natural and may be “lighter” on the environment than disposables. If you purchase the diapers yourself and wash them at home, they can be very inexpensive.
Things to consider: Many people feel cloth is the most environmentally friendly diaper option, but this may be true only if you wash them at home yourself. With a diaper service, energy used to deliver and pick up the diapers has an environmental impact. If you have a big “ick” factor about handling dirty diapers, cloth may not be for you. A newer washer with a “sanitize” cycle will make cloth diapers easier to use. Cloth generally cannot be left on a child as long, because the cloth will not soak up and separate the wetness from your baby as well as disposable diapers.
Health experts estimate that much of the sun damage we experience in life comes during childhood, which makes it especially important to keep your kids covered. Fortunately, many kid-friendly sunscreen products are available. Our guide will help you pick what you need to keep your family safe when spending time outdoors. Keep the following in mind when selecting baby and child sun care products:
- Minimize your child’s sun exposure when the sun's rays are the strongest (10 am to 2 pm).
- Cover your child’s head with a hat and cover skin with clothing in addition to sunscreen, whenever possible, especially during midday sun.
- Use a water-resistant sunscreen when your child is swimming or sweating a lot.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every one to two hours, or more often according to your child’s activity level and label directions.
Healthcare professionals generally recommend a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. As of 2012, product labels, which formerly only measured ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, are being updated to also include ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, another skin-damaging sunlight component. To differentiate, labels will now read:
- Sunscreens that protect only from UVB radiation must state, “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
- Sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB radiation and have an SPF of 15 or higher will be labeled “broad spectrum."
SPF Defined: SPF—“sun protection factor”—is a measure of the time it would take a person to burn in the sun without sunscreen vs. the time it would take them to burn with sunscreen. SPF 30 is not twice the protection of SPF 15. A product with SPF 15 blocks about 94% of ultraviolet rays, an SPF 30 blocks 97%, and an SPF 45 product blocks 98% of rays, but only for a couple of hours. After that, all sunscreens, regardless of SPF, must be reapplied for full protection.
What they are: Sunblocks, also called physical sunscreens, consist of finely ground mineral particles such as zinc and titanium, and form a physical “shield” against the sun’s radiation. The two most common physical sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Why to buy: Sunblocks are less likely to cause skin irritation and rashes than other sunscreens, which makes them an attractive option for young kids and any child with sensitive skin. For parents who prefer to reduce their child’s chemical exposure, health experts advise using physical sun blocks. Many pediatricians recommend only physical sunscreens for children under two years.
Things to consider: Sunblocks are more expensive than chemical versions and may not be as water- or sweat-resistant, which means they have to be reapplied more frequently to ensure protection. Some physical sunscreens contain fragrance or oils, both of which may irritate skin.
What they are: All-natural sunscreens contain only physical sun blocking ingredients, and may contain herbs and other plant extracts to soothe the skin as well. They do not contain synthetic chemicals, fragrances, or oils.
Why to buy: All-natural sunscreens are a good option for children with extremely sensitive skin, very young children, and babies.
Things to consider: All-natural sunscreens tend to be expensive products. They are not resistant to water and sweat, so they may not appropriate for long days at the beach or pool. Be sure to reapply these products often for full sun protection. Despite the higher price, keep in mind that if an all-natural sunscreen prevents rash or skin irritation, it’s less expensive than rash creams or a trip to the doctor’s office.
What they are: Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that react with the sun’s radiation as it hits the skin, preventing the rays from harming skin. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients include avobenzone, parsol 1789, dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, cinnamates, cinoxate, ensulizole, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, padimate O, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), and salicylates.
Why to buy: Chemical sunscreens are found in many water- and sweat-resistant products, because they tend to have more “staying power” than physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens tend to be less expensive and come in easy to apply options, such as lotions, gels, sprays, wipes, and sticks.
Things to consider: Children may have allergic reactions to certain chemical sunscreen ingredients. Common offenders include PABA, cinnamates, and salicylates. If your child has had skin reactions to sunscreens in the past, but you still want the staying power of a chemical sunscreen, try a brand that is free of these chemicals. Also try fragrance-free and oil-free products to minimize skin reactions.
What they are: Long-wear and water- and sweat-resistant sunscreens are designed to offer the best protection in active situations, such as during outdoor play or when swimming. These products can provide up to 80 minutes of protection, after which time they must be reapplied for full sun protection.
Why to buy: For active kids, long-wear and water-resistant products may be the only type of sunscreen that truly protects against the sun. If your child is very active, sweats a lot, or is a big swimmer, these products are a good option.
Things to consider: Many kids complain that long-wear sunscreens feel “sticky” or “greasy” on the skin. While this may be annoying, you can explain that this is the reason these products can stand up to sweat and water while still offering sun protection. New labeling requirements allow a product to be called water “resistant,” but not “waterproof” or “sweat-proof.”
When it comes to pregnancy, many people want the news as soon as possible, and a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t always practical. This is where a home pregnancy test comes into the picture. And for couples trying for “perfect timing” to increase the odds of becoming pregnant, a fertility monitoring kit to track ovulation can be helpful. Our guide to home pregnancy and ovulation tests will help you pick the best product to meet your needs. Keep the following in mind as you consider which and fertility tracking products:
- If you’re trying to become pregnant for the first time, a visit with your doctor to ensure you’re in good health and getting the proper nutrition needed to support a healthy pregnancy is a good idea.
- Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of hCG in the urine of a pregnant woman. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the developing embryo just after a sperm fertilizes an egg. It is later produced by the placenta—the tissue that develops to nourish a growing baby. Urine hCG levels begin to increase quickly following implantation, which is when the embryo secures itself to the lining of the uterus. Urine hCG levels double about every two to three days after implantation for about ten weeks.
- Different brands of pregnancy tests have different levels of sensitivity. For example, a pregnancy test that can detect 20 units of hCG per milliliter (ml) of urine will detect a pregnancy sooner than a test that can detect the hormone only after the concentration has reached 100 units of hCG per ml of urine. This is why women can get a “false negative”—a pregnancy test indicating she isn’t pregnant when she is. It also explains why some pregnancy tests cost more than others. The more sensitive tests tend to be more expensive. Because urine hCG levels increase over time, the longer you wait to take a pregnancy test after a missed period, the more likely the test will detect hCG if you are pregnant.
- Many pregnancy tests suggest testing urine first thing in the morning, when urine is most concentrated. This can improve the odds of detecting a pregnancy.
- Urine pregnancy tests at the doctor’s office are similar to tests found in the pharmacy. If you must know whether you are pregnant as early as possible, a blood test at the doctor’s office is the best option.
What they are: Pregnancy urine stick tests include a stick that is placed into a stream of urine. After a few minutes, the test will display lines, dots, or colors to indicate whether you are pregnant or not pregnant. If the test detects hCG in your urine, it will indicate you are pregnant.
Why to buy: These tests are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. To get the most sensitive test, pick the one that detects the lowest level of hCG in urine.
Things to consider: Some people do not want to “interpret” the test. They may question whether they are seeing the lines, dots, or colors on the stick that indicate pregnancy.
What they are: Digital urine stick tests are similar to regular urine sticks, except the stick displays the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant,” rather than other symbolization.
Why to buy: These tests are easy to use and, unlike regular urine stick tests, there is no guessing when you read the results. The digital display clearly indicates whether you are pregnant or not.
Things to consider: Digital urine stick tests are more expensive than other urine stick tests. As with regular urine sticks, the lower the level of hCG the test can detect, the more sensitive it will be.
What they are: Ovulation kits include either several strips, which are placed into a container of urine, or several sticks, which are placed into the urine stream. You can read the tests after five minutes. Strips and sticks provide similar accuracy, so use whichever test you prefer.
Why to buy: Ovulation kits can help you increase the chances of becoming pregnant. By letting you know exactly when you are ovulating, the test lets you know your most fertile time in your menstrual cycle; this is the time you are most likely to become pregnant.
Things to consider: Ovulation kits can be pricey, so you may want to try charting your ovulation for a few months using other methods first. Ask your doctor or nurse how to use an ovulation calendar, track your daily temperatures (with a special thermometer), and/or examine your vaginal discharge to approximately track ovulation. Once you do this, you’ll have an idea of how best to use an ovulation kit once you purchase it. Ovulation kits work by detecting luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. Urine will be tested for several days around the time a woman believes she is ovulating. Just before ovulation, LH levels surge, so if you detect a higher-than-average level of LH on a particular day, you know that you are about to ovulate. For most women, a positive ovulation test result means she is fertile—more likely to become pregnant—over the next three days. Peak fertility is usually around 36 hours after the LH surge. Most ovulation kits suggest testing urine mid-afternoon. This can improve the odds of detecting the surge in LH which indicates you are about to ovulate. Ovulation kits may not work well if a woman has a health condition that affects levels of reproductive hormones, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. It may be more difficult to use an ovulation kit to accurately predict ovulation if your periods are very irregular. To understand how to track ovulation, remember that “day 1” of a woman’s cycle is the first day of her period. So if a woman ovulates on “day 14,” this means she is ovulating 14 days after she first starts her period.
What they are: Combination kits offer both ovulation tests and pregnancy tests all in one. This allows you to make one purchase and have what you need for one complete menstrual cycle when you are trying to get pregnant.
Why to buy: You’ll only need one trip to the drug store and one purchase to get both portions of the pregnancy picture—how best to become pregnant (the ovulation test) and whether you’ve been successful (the pregnancy test).
Things to consider: Complete kits can be expensive, so read all instructions carefully so that you maximize your chances of getting good results from each test. If you have any questions, call the manufacturer’s number or visit their website. These companies want you to have success with their products, so they are more than happy to help!
Raising a child requires many decisions, including ones about pacifiers and teething. As many parents know, sometimes a pacifier can work miracles with helping to calm a small child. And it’s just a fact of life, when a baby’s new teeth come in, the experience is uncomfortable and your baby needs some soothing. Look at our guide to figure out which products may bring the most relief to your little one. Here are some points to keep in mind when selecting teething products and pacifiers:
- Some crankiness and more frequent waking during the night are not unusual when a baby is teething. However, if your child is crying much more than usual or suddenly becomes very fussy and this lasts for more than a few days, check with your pediatrician.
- Before you use a medicated teething product, such as a gel or swab that is rubbed on the gums, check with your pediatrician to make sure the ingredients are safe for your baby, and how often you can use them.
- If you decide to use a pacifier, select a one-piece, dishwasher-safe product that is age- and size-appropriate for your child.
- Do not use bottle nipples or other items as pacifiers that are not designed for this purpose. They can be a choking hazard.
- For babies younger than six months, wash pacifiers in boiling water or in the dishwasher. For older babies, clean pacifiers with soap and water. Clean teething rings the same way, unless the instructions indicate another method of cleaning.
- Avoid long pacifier clips, which may present a safety hazard to your child.
What they are: Teething gels and swabs are gently swiped over the gums to ease pain that can occur three to five days prior to teeth breaking through the gums. Some products contain benzocaine, a local anesthetic (pain-numbing substance), but newer products are benzocaine-free, and some are flavored.
Why to buy: Teething gels and swabs can be helpful for a fussy baby when teething pain interferes with sleep or causes serious discomfort. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist to recommend a product for your child.
Things to consider: Many child health experts and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise against benzocaine teething gels and liquids because their use is associated with a rare but serious, and potentially fatal, blood disorder (methemoglobinemia). A benzocaine-free product may be a better option.
What they are: Teething rings are made of soft, pliable materials and can be chewed to relieve gum pain and pressure during teething. Many products can be placed into the refrigerator or freezer before being given to your baby, which offers a cool, soothing way to manage teething time.
Why to buy: Teething rings offer a safe option for teething pain relief. Teething rings are inexpensive and can be washed and reused during each bout of teething pain.
Things to consider: Some parents are concerned about the safety of the plastics and gels used to manufacture teething rings. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a product if you have these concerns. Never give a completely frozen teething ring, which is too hard for sensitive gums, to your baby
What they are: Pacifiers are designed to engage your baby’s natural desire to suck, as this activity is soothing and comforting to infants. Pacifiers come in many shapes and sizes, with different sizes being appropriate for babies of different ages. Basic pacifiers tend to be round, while orthodontic models have different shapes that may be appealing to different babies, including shapes that mimic a breast nipple. Some pacifiers include a digital thermometer.
Why to buy: Pacifiers offer benefits for babies, such as soothing them when they’re fussy, helping bring on sleep, easing discomfort during flights, and possibly reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When it comes time for weaning, it’s easier to remove a pacifier than to have a child stop sucking his or her thumb or fingers. Pacifiers can also be offered as a way to distract your baby during unpleasant situations, such as getting a shot.
Things to consider: Early use—especially in the first six weeks of life—may interfere with breast-feeding, and some babies become dependent on pacifiers to sleep, which may result in multiple nighttime bouts of crying when the pacifier falls out. Pacifiers may increase the risk of middle ear infections in children after six months of age and pacifier use past the first few years of life can create dental problems.
Pick a pacifier that is age- and size-appropriate for your child and has a large enough ring so that it cannot fit entirely in his or her mouth. Once you find a pacifier your child likes, buy several backups, so you always have a clean one handy. Replace pacifiers as soon as they become worn or torn. Pacifiers fitted with thermometers should be used only to take a temperature.
- Raising a child means making many important decisions, including ones about diaper changing. Diapering can be challenging, but fortunately certain products can help things go smoothly and keep baby comfortable. Our guide will help you figure out which products may be best for keeping your baby clean and happy during and after diaper changing time.
What they are: Diaper-changing pads, which are placed between your baby and the changing surface, may be plastic or cloth, thick or thin, disposable or reusable, and contoured or flat. At home, changing pads offer a comfortable place for diaper changing. In public, they act as a barrier between your baby and a potentially germ-laden, cold, or otherwise uncomfortable surface.
Why to buy: Many people like to have a sturdy, washable changing pad for home and a thinner, more portable version to take on outings. Disposable pads are a convenient option in a pinch, such as during plane travel. Changing pad covers also may be a good option if you use a thick, contoured pad at home. The covers can be washed frequently, while the thicker pad is washed or wiped down weekly.
Things to consider: If cost or environmental impact is an are important considerations for you, reusable pads are the best option. A contoured pad may help keep a fidgety baby on the changing table, but even so, never leave your baby unattended, even for a few seconds, during changing. Wash pad covers or cloth changing pads in the hot cycle with plenty of laundry detergent and/or bleach (chlorine or non-chlorine). Wipe down plastic changing pads with hot water and soap, bleach, or an antibacterial cleaner every few days, at a minimum.
What they are: Disposable baby wipes are a convenient way to clean your baby during diaper changing. Wipes come in thick or thin versions, and may be created for different skin sensitivities or conditions, described as hypoallergenic, chlorine-free, lanolin-free, or made with lanolin, or special cooling and soothing ingredients for diaper rash. Travel-size or plastic cases are available for carrying a small number of wipes when you’re on the go.
Why to buy: Many parents find disposable baby wipes are the best option in terms of convenience and cleanliness during changing time. Some parents use a clean, damp cotton diaper to clean up their baby during changing, but this generates a lot of extra laundry—a new cloth must be used at each changing.
Things to consider: Use only wipes that have been designated baby-safe on your child. Wipes for cleaning the changing pad or area should not be used as diaper wipes; they contain potent disinfectants that can harm a baby’s delicate skin. If your baby has frequent diaper rash, consult your pediatrician or pharmacist about finding a gentler, softer wipe. Chlorine-free, hypoallergenic, or wipes with ingredients to combat diaper rash may be better tolerated by extra-sensitive babies.
What they are: Diaper rash products include creams, ointments, and special baby wipes that are used to prevent or treat diaper rash.
Why to buy: Occasional diaper rash isn’t unusual, but if your baby has frequent rashes, he or she may be allergic to some ingredient in the products you’re using. Try switching brands or selecting hypoallergenic changing products.
Things to consider: Non-medicated creams and ointments may be a good option for creating a barrier between your baby’s skin and the wetness that can worsen a rash. Use antibacterial, antifungal, or other medicated creams only when directed to do so by your doctor or pharmacist.