Current hot pediatric health topics (click to jump to topic):
- Fun in the Sun!
- Pool Safety
- Tips for using insect repellents
- Caring for your newborn
- Vaccine Safety
Fun in the Sun!
The weather is getting warmer, pools are opening for the season, and schools are letting out. All this means more outdoor time for children and their families. Keep these outdoor safety tips in mind to ensure your summer is safe and pleasant.
Follow these simple rules to protect your family from sunburns now and from skin cancer later in life.
The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up.
- Hat—Wear a hat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face.
- Sunglasses—Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection
- Clothing—Dress yourself and your kids in cool, comfortable lightweight clothing.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit your sun exposure between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
Use sunscreen! Sunscreen can help protect the skin from sunburn and some skin cancers, but only if used correctly. Keep in mind that sunscreen should be used for sun protection, not as a reason to stay in the sun longer. Remember that you can get sunburn even on cloudy days. Also, UV rays can bounce back from water, sand, snow, and concrete so make sure you’re protected.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. The higher the SPF, the more UVB protection the sunscreen has.
- Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before going outdoors. It needs time to absorb into the skin.
- Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet, and hands and even the backs of the knees. Rub it in well.
- Reapply sunscreen every 1 to 2 hours. Sunscreen wears off after swimming, sweating, or just from soaking into the skin.
For Babies Under 6 months:
Sources: Fun in the Sun: Keep Your Family Safe (2008, American Academy of Pediatrics)
Insect repellents help prevent bites from biting insects—mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. They are also an important tool to help against mosquito-borne diseases (West Nile virus) and tick-borne diseases (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease).
Use insect repellent anytime you go outside, especially during prime mosquito biting hours, between dusk and dawn. Follow the label instructions, and if you start getting bitten re-apply repellent. Insect repellents come in many forms including aerosols, sprays, liquids, creams, and sticks. Some are made from chemicals and some have natural ingredients. Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active ingredient found in many insect repellent products. It is safe to use in children over the age of 2 months, and is probably the most effective repellent. However, it does have a strong odor. The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from product to product, so it's important to read the label of any product you buy. The amount of DEET may range from less than 10% to more than 30%.
Studies show that products with higher amounts of DEET protect people longer. For example, products with amounts around 10% may repel pests for about 2 hours, while products with amounts of about 24% last an average of 5 hours. But studies also show that products with amounts of DEET greater than 30% don't offer any extra protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children.
Picaridin-containinginsect repellants were introduced to the U.S. market in 2005 as an effective alternative to DEET. It is nearly odorless. Products contain a range of 5 to 20 percent of the active ingredient.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Find shade under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
- Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats.
Set a good example. You can be the best teacher by practicing sun protection yourself. Teach all members of your family how to protect their skin and eyes.
- If you cannot keep your baby covered and in the shade, sunscreen can be applied. Use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands. However, before covering your baby with sunscreen, be sure to apply a small amount to a limited area and watch for any reaction.
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment!
- Make sure adults are trained in life-saving techniques and CPR so they can rescue a child if necessary.
- Surround your pool on all four sides with a sturdy five-foot fence.
- Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
- Children are not developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday.
- Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning
- Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
- Read the product label and follow all directions.
- Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use repellents under clothing.
- Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. Do not apply to children's hands.
- Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face — spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation generally are unnecessary for effectiveness.
- Avoid reapplying unless necessary. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
- Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
- Don't buy products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again. (This precaution may vary with different repellents — check the product label.)
- If a child develops a rash or other apparent allergic reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash it off with mild soap and water and call a local poison control center for further guidance.
West Nile Virus – Updated Information Regarding Insect Repellents (2009, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Download our Caring for Your Newborn brochure (PDF) by clicking here.
Download the American Academy of Pediatrics "Vaccine Safety: The Facts" (PDF) by clicking here.