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Summertime Tips and Help: Sunscreen and Bug Repellent Spray

​Sunscreen and Sun Safety

It is well known that prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun puts people at risk for skin cancer. The regular use of sunscreen on children can lower their risk of skin cancer by almost 78%.Boys Town Pediatrics offers the following tips on keeping your children safe during the summer months.

Infants Less Than 6 Months of Age

For infants less than 6 months of age, limiting exposure to direct sunlight is the best way to protect them.

  • When possible, keep your infant out of direct sunlight when the sun's rays are the strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • When outside, try to keep your infant in the shade, whether under a tree, or by using an umbrella or stroller canopy.
  • Use hats with brims that shade your infant's face and ears.​
  • Sunscreen can be used sparingly on infants under 6 months of age if shade is not possible.

Children Over 6 Months of Age

For children over 6 months of age, in addition to limiting sun exposure, sunscreen should be used to help protect them from the sun.

  • Choose a sunscreen, preferably waterproof, with a protection level of at least SPF 15. Make sure the sunscreen is "broad-spectrum," meaning it blocks both UVB and UVA rays. Before applying the sunscreen to all exposed areas, apply a small amount to a test area to look for a reaction. Sunscreen should always be applied carefully around the eyes.
  • The sunscreen should be applied approximately 30-45 minutes prior to exposure to allow time for the product to activate. Sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours or immediately after swimming if a non-waterproof formulation is used.
  • Use sunscreen even on cloudy days because the sun's rays still pass through clouds. Additionally, the sun's rays can bounce back from surfaces such as sand and concrete, so use particular caution in these areas.
  • Zinc Oxide is a very effective sun block and can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and shoulders.

Repellent Spray and Bug Safety

Insects, especially mosquitoes, commonly bite children and can make them miserable. There are many safe and effective insect repellents that you can use to protect your child. Here are a few tips to keep your children safe from insect bites:

  • Do not use scented soaps, perfumes or hairsprays on your child before going outdoors.
  • Children should wear clothing with long pants and long sleeves when insect exposure is prevalent, especially in wooded areas.
  • Reduce the number of mosquitoes in an area by disposing of containers with standing water, which provide breeding places for mosquitoes.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of DEET products with a concentration of 5-10% on children older than 2 months. Repellents with DEET should not be used on children under 2 months old.
  • When using insect repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub the product onto your child's exposed skin. Avoid children's hands, eyes, mouth, and open wounds, and use it sparingly around their ears.
  • Do not apply repellent under clothing, and if it is applied to clothing, wash treated clothing before wearing again. Bathe children before bed if repellent has been used during the day.
  • There are many different types of bug repellent. A few examples include:
    • OFF! Skintastic (5-10% DEET, provides 4 hour coverage).
    • DEET-free products include natural oils, such as citronella, patchouli, clove, and makaen (provide 2-4 hour coverage).
    • Other DEET-free products include: Avon's Skin So Soft, Bug-Away, Off-Botanicals, California Baby and Bite Blocker (made from soybean oil).

We hope these tips will help you to protect your children and help them to develop safe sun habits that will last a lifetime. Have a very enjoyable and safe summer!

By Kelli J. Shidler, M.D. - Boys Town Pediatrics