Now that the sun sets later in the day and children get to play outside longer, it’s time to get out the sunscreen and bug spray to protect your child. Sunscreen is essential to reduce your child’s risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Try to apply the sunscreen 15-30 minutes before they go out to play, and reapply every 2 hours. Even if your sunscreen says it is waterproof, it needs to be reapplied after swimming.
Choosing a Sunscreen
When choosing a sunscreen, look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen since it will protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet (UVB) sunrays. Sunscreens with SPF (Sun-Protective Factor) of 30 block 97% of the UVB radiation and are great for long days of outdoor play. For infants under 6 months whom sunscreen isn’t recommended, keeping them in the shade and covered is the general rule. If the sun can’t be avoided, small amounts of sunscreen can be applied to the face or back of hands if necessary. Whatever you do when out in the sun, don’t forget the sunglasses to protect your child’s eyes from the damaging effects of the sunlight.
Protection from Ticks
With the warmer weather, bugs begin to crawl about. Ticks become a problem when walking in tall grasses or wooded areas. Long pants and shirts, in combination with insect spray, can reduce tick attachment. Insect sprays with 20% DEET applied to the skin has been shown to prevent tick attachment. Spraying your children’s clothes also acts as a repellent. Once indoors from play, remove your child’s clothes and check him/her carefully for ticks – especially in the groin, waist, armpit, and hairline. Ticks generally need 48-72 hours to transmit disease. Removal before that time reduces your child’s risk.
If you find a tick attached on your child, grab it with a pair of clean tweezers as close to the body as possible and pull upward with steady pressure. With luck, the tick will disengage but sometimes the tick breaks off and you are left holding pieces! Don’t dig out the pieces since they will dissolve eventually. No need to worry if over the next 1-2 weeks a small read itchy bump develops over the site of the bite. That is triggered by the tick’s saliva and may remain for a week. Call your pediatrician if your child develops fever, headache or a rash 1-3 weeks after a tick bite since these can all be signs of a serious tick borne illness.
Protection from Mosquitos
Mosquitos are another warm weather pest. Eliminate standing water on your property to decrease breeding areas. If your child will be out playing in the early morning or at dusk, make sure you spray them with insect repellent. DEET is the standard insect repellent to which all others are compared with concentrations between 10-75%. Newer agents such as Picardin appear to be as effective as 20% DEET but have a shorter duration of action. Studies show that all are safe to use in children down to age 2 months. Beware of combination sunscreen/insect repellent products since reapplication required to maintain sunscreen protection may result in excessive DEET exposure.
If your child gets bitten by a mosquito, they may develop a red, swollen, itchy bump. If your child is young and hasn’t been bitten before, the swelling can be quite dramatic and frightening though not life threatening.
Topical hydrocortisone along with some oral diphenhydramine can help dramatically. Be sure to check with your pediatrician for your child’s correct dose. As the season progresses, the degree of reaction to the bites should “calm” down. If the bite becomes angry looking, very painful or pus-filled, call your pediatrician right away.
With proper protection, the summer can be lots of fun. Just make sure to protect your child’s skin with sunscreen and bug spray whenever they are outside playing.