Don E McInturff, MD

July 18th, 2014

Warm temperatures prompt an increase in outdoor activities. A few precautions can help keep sunburns and bug bites from spoiling your outdoor family fun.

Sun Protection:
While it may be tempting to let your child play outdoors for a few minutes without proper sun protection, remember babies and children can get sunburned very quickly and a few minutes often turns into an hour or more. When possible, limit sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 4pm when the UV rays are strongest. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies under six months of age out of direct sunlight. Rather, babies should be keep in the shade, wear a hat and dress in clothing that is cool, comfortable and covers the body. While sunscreen is not recommended for infants under the age of 6 months, it can be applied sparingly if shade is not possible.

For children over the age of 6 months, in addition to limiting sun exposure, sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin at least 30 minutes prior to going outside. Follow label directions and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or 30 is adequate for most people. For sensitive areas, such as the nose, cheek and shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

If a baby, younger than 1 year old, gets sunburned, call your physician immediately. For older children, contact your physician if there is blister, pain or fever.

Keeping Bugs Away:
Bug bites are common this time of the year. Remember, most bug sprays keep you protected from biting bugs, but do little to protect against stinging insects such as bees, wasps and hornets. Lightweight clothing can help prevent stings. As for biting bugs, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using DEET products with a concentration of 5-10 percent on children older than 2 months. Repellents with DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.

Avoid spraying repellent directly on the face; spray it on your hands and then pat the face. Only apply repellent on the outside of child’s clothing and on exposed skin. When returning indoors, wash your child’s skin with soap and water and wash clothing before it is worn again. In addition, avoid products that combine DEET and sunscreen as instructions for using the two products differ.

In rare instances, bug spray can cause irritation, an allergic reaction or irritate the eyes. If irritation occurs, stop using the repellent, wash the skin with soap and water and contact the poison control center or your physician.