Summer is upon us and we all want to do our best to keep our families safe and healthy. Some of the summer reminders can seem obvious. You’ve likely even heard the reports out last week warning against using a blanket to shade a baby in a stroller (those enclosed spaces can heat up like greenhouses). Heat waves, sun, vacation, time away from routine, summer is a time of typical increasing adventure and exploration. The product of exploration are bumps and bruises and scrapes and sometimes, even burns. Quick reminders here for why to use effective prevention medicines and how. Pretty obvious advice, but here’s 3 items you should have readily available all the time: sunscreen, insect repellent and maybe even antibiotic ointment — although bandages are a start. You can reach for the ointment once you get home!
1. Protecting Children From The Sun
- Use broad spectrum sunscreen that covers UVA and UVB rays with an SPF over 30. As a reminder UVA are rays that cause aging to the skin and UVB rays cause burns. Both are bad news, especially during childhood.
- Sunscreen isn’t the BEST protector for our skin– shade is. But being outdoors in the sunshine is the essesnce of childhood. Consider sun protective clothing like rash guards, hats and sunglasses – always better to use things that can’t be absorbed in the skin! And plan activities in direct sun to avoid the most intense sunshine of the day (between 10am and 4pm) when you can.
- Choose an SPF over 30 (SPF refers to the amount of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays), anything over that doesn’t make much difference. More than what kind of sunscreen is how you use it. Apply 20 minutes prior to sun and every 1-2 hours while in the water or high activity.
- Look for sunscreens that include zinc or titanium and avobenzone — these are physical barriers rather than chemical ones — that are less likely to be absorbed in the skin.
2. Preventing Insect Bites
- Summer brings out bugs including mosquitoes, wasps and flies. No question we’ve all been thinking more about mosquitoes than ever before with Zika in the news. Here’s a clear and easy-to-read resource on what repellents to use if you live in an area with Zika transmission.
- Children should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if in areas with lots of insects as that will help protect from bites more than anything else. On areas exposed outside the clothes, you can use repellent.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for safety and effectiveness.Reapply insect repellent every few hours as directed on the bottle
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing and don’t use products that are a sunscreen and insect repellent mixed together — dosing intervals are different and areas they are needed often are, too. If you need both products, apply sunscreen first and then insect repellent over it.
- It is safe to use EPA–registered insect repellents if pregnant and/or nursing!
Bug repellent for babies and children:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age (protect them with clothing or avoid the deep woods!).
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, especially at times when insects love to irritate (evening hours) and use netting to avoid bites when possible for sleeping or in a stroller.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Spray insect repellent onto your hands first and then apply to a child’s face — don’t ever spray directly on a child’s face.
3. Caring For Cuts And Scrapes
- Clean cuts and scrapes immediately with water. Rather than soaking, do your best to keep your child still (distraction, think distraction!) while you let water run over and through a cut or abrasion.
- There’s no need to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or an iodine-containing cleanser, which can be irritating to tissue already injured. Water is a safer bet for cleaning out the wound. Tap water is safe (you don’t need sterile water!) and the pressure from a faucet can sometimes really help irrigate a cut or abrasion very well. Consider irrigating the cut or scrape for a number of minutes if you can get your child to cooperate.
- After the cut/scrape is clean, cover up with topical antibiotic ointment and repeat the application of the ointment about 2 or 3 times daily with a loose bandage for a few days.
- Also: a reminder that the scars created from injuries are healing skin and more sensitive to the darkening in the sun. If you want to improve the way a scar heals, work to keep it out of the sun where UVA radiation hits. Best to keep healing scars out of the sun for the first year to prevent long-lasting scar formation. Hats (if scars on the face) and sunscreen go a long way in year one to improve wound healing!
This post was written in partnership with KnowYourOTCs.org. In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @KnowYourOTCs #KnowYourOTCs for more info on health and wellness.