Sun Safety

Melanoma is the seventh most frequent cancer in the US. Sunburns in childhood increase a person’s risk of this deadly disease. It is estimated that 80% of a person’s lifetime of sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. We can help decrease this risk for our children by avoiding direct sunlight and using sunscreens appropriately.

Sunscreens come in many different forms. They act to decrease the intensity of the UV radiation (ultra-violet or tanning/burning rays) that is reaching the skin. A broad spectrum sunscreen (absorbing both UV-A and UV-B rays) is recommended. They are labeled with an SPF, or Sun Protection Factor. Use an SPF of greater than or equal to 15 and apply 30 minutes before sun exposure.

Sun Safety for:

Babies – Infants have less ability to sweat to eliminate body heat and less melanin in their skin, which lends to increased risk of burning. Avoidance, Avoidance, Avoidance is the key. Avoid direct sunlight and avoid peak hours of sun intensity (10 am-4 pm). Use sunglasses to protect eyes and lightweight long sleeves tops/long pants with a wide brimmed hat. For babies over two months old you can use sunscreen on exposed areas like face, neck and back of hands.

Children and Adolescents – Avoid peak hours (10 am-4 pm) of direct sunlight, use hat and sunglasses, apply sunscreen liberally (using at least one ounce per application) and reapply every two hours or after swimming/sweating.

Insect repellents

With the nicer, warmer weather upon us many people are venturing outside, sharing space with the local biting insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Although severe complications from insect-borne illnesses in our area are rare, the other minor discomforts they cause lead many to search for a repellent.

Use repellents when going outdoors, especially at dusk or dawn or in brush, tall grass or wooded areas. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend products used in scientific trial and that contain active ingredients which have been registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Conventional repellents include DEET and picardin. Biopesticide repellents (from natural materials) include oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD, for use in children over age three) and IR3535 and have decreased duration of action when compared to conventional repellents. Typically, the more of the active ingredient a product contains the longer it will protect from bites.

For example, a product with 23% DEET will provide an average of five hours of protection, but a product with 5% DEET only one and one half hours of protection.

Permethrin is a repellent that can be used on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and will retain effect after laundering. It is NOT for use on skin.

Insect safety for children over 2 months old:

  • use as directed on product label
  • apply only to exposed skin or clothing
  • do not allow children to handle this product, parents should apply to child
  • do not apply to eyes or mouth and do not spray directly on face
  • wash skin upon returning indoors and prior to reapplying
  • do not apply over open skin
  • do not use combination repellent/sunscreen products (Sunscreen should be applied often and copiously. Use insect repellent only as needed and washed off immediately when out of harm of insects.)

Using these simple measures to keep our children safe will allow them to get active and enjoy the outdoors day after day!

CDC and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) websites were used to supply content for this article.