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Summer Safety- Protecting Your Child From the Sun, Bugs, and Water

Summer Safety

The summer is certainly a time to be outdoors, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.  It is also a time of sunshine, water, and bugs!  While enjoying summer fun, please remember certain important safety tips* to help protect your children.

Sun Safety for Babies

  • Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. It is okay to apply a small amount of sunscreen on infants under 6 months if there is no way to avoid the sun.
  • Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats.

Sun Safety for Kids

  • Choose sunscreen that is made for children, preferably waterproof. Before covering your child, test the sunscreen on your child’s back for an allergic reaction. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids. If a rash develops, talk with your pediatrician.
  • Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective.
  • When using a cap with a bill, make sure the bill is facing forward to shield your child’s face. Sunglasses with UV protection are also a good idea for protecting your child’s eyes.
  • If your child gets sunburn that results in blistering, pain or fever, contact your pediatrician.

Sun Safety for the Family

  • The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to keep out of the sun during those hours.
  • The sun’s damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, snow or concrete; so be particularly careful of these areas.
  • Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.
  • When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “broad-spectrum” on the label – it means that the sunscreen will screen out both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Choose a water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.
  • Zinc oxide, a very effective sunblock, can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and on the shoulders.
  • Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Rub sunscreen in well, making sure to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet and hands, and even the backs of the knees.
  • Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors – it needs time to work on the skin.
  • Sunscreens should be used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.

Water Safety

Each year many young children drown in swimming pools, other bodies of water, and standing water around the home:

  • Bathtubs, even with baby bathtub “supporting ring” devices
  • Buckets and pails, especially 5-gallon buckets and diaper pails
  • Ice chests with melted ice
  • Toilets
  • Hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools
  • Irrigation ditches, post holes, and wells
  • Fish ponds, fountains

Children must be watched by an adult at all times when in or near water. Children may drown in an inch or 2 of water. Stay within an arm’s length of your child.

Bug Safety

There are so many insect repellents out there. What kind is best for my children?

Insect repellents come in many forms including aerosols, sprays, liquids, creams, and sticks. Some are made from chemicals and some have natural ingredients.

Keep in mind that insect repellents prevent bites from biting insects but not stinging insects. Biting insects include mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. Stinging insects include bees, hornets, and wasps.

Available Repellents

What’s Available How Well It Works How Long it Protects Special Precautions
Chemical Repellents with DEET (N,N-Diethyl-3-Methylbenzamide) Considered the best defense against biting insects. 3 to 8 hours depending on how much DEET is in the product. Caution should be used when applying DEET to children.
Repellents Made From Essential Oils Found In Plants Such As Citronella, Cedar, Eucalyptus, and Soybean Generally much less effective repellents; most give short-term protection only. Usually less than 2 hours. Allergic reactions are rare, but can occur.
Chemical Repellents with Permethrin These repellents kill ticks on contact. When applied to clothing, it lasts even after several washings. Should only be applied to clothing, not directly to skin. May be applied to outdoor equipment such as sleeping bags or tents.

The following are types of repellents that are not effective:

  • Wristbands soaked in chemical repellents
  • Garlic or vitamin B1 taken by mouth
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves designed to keep insects away
  • Bird or bat houses
  • Backyard bug zappers (Insects may actually be attracted to your yard.)

DEET

DEET is a chemical used in insect repellents. The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from product to product, so it’s important to read the label of any product you buy. The amount of DEET may range from less than 10% to more than 30%.

Studies show that products with higher amounts of DEET protect people longer. For example, products with amounts around 10% may repel pests for about 2 hours, while products with amounts of about 24% last an average of 5 hours. But studies also show that products with amounts of DEET greater than 30% don’t offer any extra protection.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than 2 months.

Tips for Using Repellents Safely

The following are guidelines on how to use insect repellents safely.

Dos

  • Read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
  • Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
  • Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless necessary.
  • Assist young children when applying insect repellents on their own. Older children also should be supervised when using these products.
  • Wash your children’s skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when they return indoors, and wash their clothing before they wear it again.

Don’ts

  • Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
  • Repellents should not be sprayed directly onto your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child’s face. Avoid the eyes and mouth.
  • Insect repellents should not be applied on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Don’t buy products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.

*©American Academy of Pediatrics

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