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Summertime tips – Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Now that Texas is heating up and school is out, you and your family are probably planning to spend some time in the sunny outdoors. It is very important to remember sun protection for your little ones to prevent both the immediate damage of a sunburn and to prevent long term skin damage and the risk of skin cancer. For babies less than 6 months, the best protection is sun avoidance by staying in the shade or wearing loose, long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants with a brimmed hat. Babies under 6 months are too young to use sunscreen. For babies and kids older than 6 months, you can apply sunscreen any time you plan to be outdoors. You want to be sure to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and to reapply it at least every 2 hours to ensure continued protection from the sun’s rays. It is most crucial to remember this between 10am and 2pm, which is when the sun is most directly overhead and is likely to affect your child the most. However, any UV exposure can be damaging to the skin and can result in sunburn; even on cloudy days 80% of UV rays still penetrate through the clouds and can affect your little one. If using spray on sunscreen be sure to rub it in afterwards to cover any exposed area. Sunscreens that physically block UV rays such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are known to be safe. Absorbable sunscreens are also considered safe but further research is currently being conducted on these products. At West Plano Pediatrics, we polled our own doctors and nurses. Favorite sunblocks include Aveeno Baby, Neutrogena, Babyganics, SunBum, Banana Boat Kids, No-Ad Baby, or whichever store brand is available!

What about bugs? Mosquitos are the biggest pest in Texas, and they carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and Zika virus. Additionally, many children are exposed to chiggers and can also be exposed to ticks, especially if playing in wooded areas or places with tall grass. It is not uncommon for children, especially those with sensitive skin, to have large local reactions with redness, swelling, and itching at the site of an insect bite. To avoid bites, wear long pants and socks and limit exposure to tall grasses. DEET insect repellant is safe for babies > 2 months and is highly effective. Products with 10% DEET are a good place to start; this concentration lasts for about 2 hours. Higher concentrations of DEET (such as Deep Woods Off, which contains 25%) last longer but concentrations higher than 30% are not any more effective and are not recommended. Be sure NOT to utilize DEET/sunscreen combination products as frequent reapplication of the sunscreen can cause too much DEET exposure. DEET is the most effective bug repellant and can be found under brand names of Off and Cutter Skinsations. Another option includes picardin (can be found as Cutter Advanced and Off Skintastic), which is effective but for shorter periods of time than DEET. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, an organic chemical that repels mosquitos, are much less effective and can cause skin and eye irritation; as such these are not recommended under the age of 3. Coleman is one brand that sells products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus. Citronella and botanical oils are far inferior to bug sprays such as DEET and are generally not considered effective. Bracelets and electronic devices that advertise they repel mosquitos are completely ineffective and will not protect your child against insect bites.  Our favorite brands of bug sprays include Off and Repel (both contain DEET and can be used at any age above 2 months), as well as Coleman Naturals as a non-DEET option for kids over the age of 3. 

Article written by Dr. Elizabeth Adams

Originally from Richardson, Texas. Graduated Texas A&M
Graduated from UT Southwestern Medical School, residency at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.