Like many of us, you may be celebrating the spring blossoms, the warmer weather, and, most importantly, the temporary relief from snow! This time of year many families are preparing for summer camps, swimming pools, and family vacations. Like many parents, you may be wondering about how to keep your children healthy and safe in the context of summer activities in a culture of ever-changing recommendations.
The key to summer safety is to set family rules and enforce them! Let’s face it, kids don’t really like to be sprayed with foul smelling bug spray, wear floaties when they are not even in the pool, or stop playing on the playground long enough to reapply sunscreen. Once kids realize they may miss something fun (ie: swimming or playing), they are much more likely to follow the rules. It’s like wearing seatbelts. It’s the law. We all have to wear them. If we role model following the rules or the law, our kids are more likely to follow suit.
Some of the most common questions fielded by our awesome nursing staff is with regards to sunscreen, water safety and insect repellant.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined rate of diagnosis of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. In addition, the rate of skin cancer diagnosis is increasing, with 1 in 5 Americans developing skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. The skin is the largest organ of the body and serves many functions, including acting as a barrier to bacteria, prevents fluid loss, aids in controlling body temperature, and getting rid of body wastes. The skin is also responsible for specific sensations, including temperature, touch, and pain. Sunscreen works to protect our skin from damage and scarring, both of which could interfere with basic bodily functions.
- Here are some basic sun-safety guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Wear Sunscreen!!
How to choose a sunscreen:
- You should see “broad spectrum” on the label, covering both UVA and UVB rays
SPF must be 15 or higher. The higher the SPF, the more protection.
- Look for the UVA “star” rating:
- One star is low UVA protection, two stars medium protection, three stars is high protection, and four stars the highest UVA protection available over the counter.
- For sensitive skin, or for the face, nose, tops of ears or shoulders, try a sunscreen with the above UVA protection in addition look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide on the label.This may not blend into the skin as well, but will provide a barrier.
How to apply sunscreen:
- Use enough of the product to cover all exposed areas of the body, including hands, feet, tops of ears, backs of knees.
- Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure in order to allow absorption
- Your child may sunburn even on cloudy days. UV rays also may be stronger when around water, sand, even snow, as the rays tend to bounce back from these elements.
- Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. Swimming, sweating, and soaking may cause sunscreen to wear off sooner and should be reapplied often.
- Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. A canopy, tree, or umbrella may used for shade.
- If sun exposure cannot be avoided, Blue Lizard brand sunscreen may be utilized on small areas of the body, such as the face.
- For babies older than 6 months, apply sunscreen to all areas of the body, being careful around the eyes. Wipe the eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth if the baby rubs the sunscreen in his/her eyes. Blue Lizard brand is good for sensitive skin, or look for sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Lightweight pants, long-sleeve shirts, and hats offer excellent protection against the sun’s damaging rays. Hats should have a brim that shields the face.
- UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., limit sun exposure during those times.
- Sunglasses should offer at least 99% protection and are recommended for children (with their cooperation, of course!)
Types of Repellents
There are many forms of insect repellants, including sprays, aerosols, liquids, creams, and sticks. Insect repellants protect against insects that BITE, not from insects that STING. Biting insects include: mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies.
Here are some guidelines:
- Insect repellants with DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) are the best defense against biting insects. Once sprayed, this lasts 2-5 hours. The concentration of DEET varies from product to product. 10%-30% DEET concentration is recommended. More than 30% DEET offers no additional coverage and is not recommended for use in children.
- Insect repellant is not recommended for children younger than 2 months.
Safe use of insect repellants:
- Apply the repellant only to your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Certain repellants may not be applied directly to the skin (i.e.: permethrin-containing products).
- Read the label and follow the precautions
- When using a spray, use the repellant in an open area, outside, and avoid breathing in the product.
- Use only enough to cover the exposed skin and clothing. Using more does not necessarily mean additional coverage. Reapply according to label directions. Most products require reapplication every 2 hours
- Wash skin and clothing to remove the chemical when children return indoors.
- NEVER: spray directly into a child’s face. Spray the product into your hand and then rub onto the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
- NEVER: Use on a child under 2 months old.
- NEVER: spray on cuts, wounds, or open skin lesions.
- NEVER: use combination products with DEET and sunscreen. The DEET component may make the SPF less effective.
There are some products that are NOT effective repellants: wristbands soaked in insect repellants, garlic or vitamin B1, ultrasound devices that give off sound waves, bird or bat houses, or outdoor bug zappers.
If your child develops a rash, which you suspect is a reaction to the insect repellant, STOP using the product, wash the skin with soap and water. If severe, POISON CONTROL (1800 222-1222) may be contacted or call our triage line if after hours.
Insects may be avoided by teaching your children to avoid places that attract bugs, i.e.: garbage cans, stagnant water, flowerbeds, and orchards. Long pants, shirts, socks, closed-toed shoes will keep skin protected. Mosquito netting may be used for strollers or baby carriers. Scented soaps, perfumes, and hairsprays may attract insects and should be avoided.
Routine tick checks should be performed if you live in an area prevalent with ticks. This should occur daily when your child is playing outdoors. Products with permethrin are the most effective repellant against ticks; however, permethrin may not be applied directly to the skin. http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme
Swimming is one of the most popular summer activities. Because drowning is second only to birth defects in the cause of death among children ages 1-4, it is important to refresh even the most seasoned swimmer with water safety tips.
Here are some tips to stay safe:
- NEVER leave children unattended near a pool or in a pool. Most drownings occur when an adult is nearby.
- A competent, responsible individual (adult or certified lifeguard) should be designated to supervise kids in and around the pool. Even if a lifeguard is present, this does not substitute parental supervision around water. Do not trust your child’s life to another child.
- Invest in swimming lessons for your kids. There is peace of mind when your kids are at camp or swimming at a friends’ home when you they possess this skill, which is proven to prevent drowning. Formal swimming lessons are offered around the Rochester area.
- If you have a home pool, it would be worthwhile to invest in a self-closing, outward-open latch with a lock. Invest in a fence that completely encloses the pool.
- Pool alarms add another layer of protection and are available on Amazon.com or poolguard.com. Safety covers may also be used which prevent children from being trapped under a pool cover.
- Remember kids are climbers!!! Keep furniture, playground equipment away from a pool. These may all provide access to a pool.
- For older kids who are strong swimmers, encourage them to never swim alone, to always swim with a buddy. Young or inexperienced swimmers should always wear a life jacket.
- When boating, kids and adults, alike, should wear a lifejacket even if you know how to swim. Drowning accounts for 7 out of 10 boating deaths.
- The best source of protection is always close supervision.
In the event of an emergency, check the water first. When you are near a pool or lake, keep your phone handy if 911 needs to be contacted, as well as keep a first aid kit, reaching or throwing equipment, and life jackets, especially if you have your own boat or pool.
We encourage you to enroll in a certified water safety, first aid, and CPR/AED course in order to be better prepared for an emergency. For those of you who own your own pool or lake house, it is important to be prepared for an emergency. The American Heart Association as well as the American Red Cross sponsor CPR/AED classes regularly. Online enrollment is simple via these websites:
Have a FUN and SAFE summer from all of us at Legacy Pediatrics!