Some Summertime Autism Advice

Isn’t swimming a wonderful sport for ASD kids? I think that it is one of those activities that automatically and without any diet, prompting, medications or supplements makes the children appear as they really are – basically just children. But, there are special problems that accompany this autoimmune medical condition for parents to consider in order to help their affected child.

Let’s start with the sun. The question of sunscreen comes up quite a bit in our practice. This is the best time of year to get some natural Vitamin D into any child, and the more sedentary that a child’s lifestyle has become, the more they need the real stuff. So, give the children a 10-minute un-slathered break from the creams after lunch, for example. But, don’t forget to put it back on and note the time that the label suggests for re-application.

While, we’re on the subject of sunscreen, new rules came out this week which appear to aid the consumer in comparing ingredients, claims, usage and value. While this information does not specifically pertain to ASD patients, The Child Development Center has fielded several questions about the gluten that the creams may contain. One valuable piece of advice is supplied by MayoClinic.com gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Picco, “Gluten-containing skin care products and cosmetics aren’t a problem unless you accidentally swallow them. For this reason, avoid using such products on your lips or around your mouth. Also, avoid using gluten-containing dental products, such as certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. If you’re uncertain about whether a product contains gluten, check the ingredient list on the product label or call the manufacturer… <a related> skin disorder is also linked to gluten intolerance. But although it involves the skin, <it> is caused by ingesting gluten, not by skin contact with gluten.

If you use a cosmetic or skin care product that contains gluten and you develop a skin reaction, see your doctor or dermatologist to identify the cause. It is possible to have an allergy to wheat or another grain that could cause a skin reaction.”

For autism, I would add the following: if you see any unusual behavioral changes after using sunscreen, you may want to try a specifically gluten-free solution. Here is a list of products.

Many children with ASD have had recurrent ear infections and have ventilation tubes to relieve the condition. There is a surprising paucity of recent literature (this century) on how to handle the question of swimming. Briefly, here is the pertinent information:

1) Swimming in fresh or salt water is OK (A)

2) Diving is not OK (A)

3) Avoid streams, ponds or other possibly contaminated or stagnant sites (A)

4) There is no evidence that swim caps or ear plugs reduce the incidence of ear infection (A)

5) Ear drops are not helpful in decreasing the incidence of infection, and they may increase the risk of acute otitis media.(A, B)

Another question about swimming pools is the possibility of over-ingestion of water by some ASD affected children. Although there is some literature that reports polydipsia (12, 3) in autistic children and adults, this has not been a problem in our medical practice. It would seem that a sudden summertime increase in nocturnal enuresis may alert the parent to this behavior, however.

Finally, there are many questions about rashes following swimming pool exposure. If a skin eruption appears to be due to the chlorine, DermaSwimPro offers a helpful solution. This advice comes from one of my most sensitive patient’s Mom, and her experience has proven accurate in other patients, as well. (I am not a DermaSwimPro salesperson, and I do not play one on TV).

Sometimes, red rashes that appear under the bathing suit are secondary to skin fungal infections, or due to other organisms. That may mandate a visit to a competent physician for further investigation to relieve the symptoms and prevent secondary infection.

Summer vacation presents a great opportunity in an autistic child’s life. After an arduous school year of special education, multiple therapies, doctors and testing, this is the time when they get to BE kids and PLAY with other kids. Think of it as Summer-Ed Therapy.

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