Summer is in full swing and the temperatures are soaring, which makes it the perfect time to enjoy the long, lazy days of summer. In the pool, camping, at the beach or just in the backyard enjoying a BBQ and family time, now is the time to help kids play and explore in the outdoors. But, with fun must come protection. Skin needs to be protected from the burning, harmful rays of the sun and the bites of potentially disease carrying mosquitoes and ticks. Nothing ruins a fun day more than a painful sunburn and arms and legs covered with itchy mosquito bites.
What’s safe to use on kids? What’s effective? How much should you use and how frequently should you reapply? Here are some guidelines to follow:
Separate but equal. Never use a combination sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreen should be reapplied, especially after water activity, and insect repellent should only be used once per day. In addition, insect repellent should not be used directly on the face and hands. Little hands can easily make their way into the mouth, and no insect repellent should ever be ingested. Use sunscreen and insect repellent as separate products.
DEET details. The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved DEET insect repellent as safe for children over 2 months. Choose a repellent with up to 30 percent DEET, which repels both mosquitoes and ticks. The higher percentage doesn’t mean it has more DEET, only that it last longer. If you’re hiking or exposing young children to wooded areas where ticks are likely present, keep in mind DEET is the most effective FDA-approved repellant for ticks. If you decide to use a natural repellant with plant based oils, remember they need to be applied much more often. Keep in mind oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3.
Sunscreen Safety. Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, which is sufficient to block 93 percent of UVB rays (UVB rays cause burn, but UVA rays penetrate deeper, which can be just as cancer-causing). The best way to apply sunscreen is to apply liberally at least 30 minutes before going outside and more every hour or after water activity.
Keep in mind. Sunscreen and insect repellent are just part of the solution. Other ways to protect include keeping kids out the sun when it’s at its peak (mid-day) and wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved swim shirts and hats. For bugs, the same is true. Dusk and dawn are good times to keep kids inside (when mosquitoes are most active) and long sleeves and pants help protect them against bites, too.