The summertime is filled with activities, sun, water, and bugs. Read more...
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How can parents help keep their kids safe around water this summer?
Keeping safe around the water includes supervision, avoiding running, and minimizing clutter around water spaces to avoid tripping or falling.
Another important thing to remember is that by the end of the summer, I see plantar warts and molluscum in higher numbers. Warts can often spread in water environments. Wearing swim shoes or flip-flops around the pool can minimize your exposure to these viruses. Molluscum is harder to protect against as it may spread in the water itself. Try to avoid sharing towels and keep the skin well hydrated or moisturized to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus to irritated or inflamed skin.
What are the signs a child may need to be seen by a doctor following a water safety accident?
Following a water safety accident, please see your doctor if a child continues to cough, appear short of breath, have chest pain, vomit, or show signs of extreme tiredness. If there are any concerning signs or symptoms that just do not feel right, it is always reasonable to see your doctor. Even diarrhea and fever can be noted. The phenomenon of secondary drowning can occur after 24 hours. Be vigilant and observe the child for signs or symptoms of distress.
How should parents treat/respond to bug bites and stings this summer?
Icing a bite helps soothe the discomfort and itch fairly quickly. I even find that using ketchup packets from fast food restaurants and freezing them provides a quick and effective ice pack for small bites. Try not to itch these bites- the more you itch the more they will swell! Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can reduce itchiness and swell in a bite. I find icing a bite for kids can give pretty quick relief. If a bee sting is suspected, make sure the stinger is removed, wash the area with soap and water, and ice immediately. For a significant amount of pain or swelling, antihistamines may be needed.
What are the safest bug-repellant options for kids?
To avoid most types of bug bites, it does help to use insect repellents when outdoors. There are a variety of options ranging from chemical to more natural options. DEET is found in many commercial insect repellents and is overall considered safe. Many parents tell me they would still prefer a more natural option. These include citronella, peppermint, sandalwood, and cedarwood containing sprays. For ticks and lice, it is worth considering routine checks when possible exposure may have occurred. Also, try to avoid wearing perfumes and colognes to avoid attracting bees.
I also find that parents can benefit from treating their outdoor spaces where kids frequent to minimize the volume of bugs when needed. If you are planning an outdoor event it helps to get citronella candles, torches or sprays can be used.
How can parents help ensure their kids stay hydrated this summer?
Hydration is best achieved by keeping and maintaining a water bottle or sports drink around at all times. Encouraging kids to take a water break routinely is important as they may not always feel the need to do so.
What are some signs of dehydration parents should be aware of?
The obvious signs of dehydration focus on the child’s sense of feeling thirsty, dry eyes and mouth, and seeking hydration. The subtle signs include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, tired, muscle cramps, and weakness. They may actually stop sweating and stop producing tears when crying. Nausea and vomiting can also occur. If you note, that a child is not peeing much or that there are far fewer wet diapers, dehydration may be the cause. Also, note the color of urine can be particularly dark given how concentrated it is.
What are some signs of heat exhaustion parents should be aware of?
“Sun Poisoning” is technically not a medical term. It is a common way for patients to describe a scenario where a person experiences a severe sunburn through UV radiation followed by other systemic symptoms. If the sunburn is severe enough, systemic symptoms kick in that include fever, chills, and nausea. This is often due to the fact that with significant UV exposure, the skin can actually burn deeply leading to redness, swelling, and blistering. Our skin serves an essential role in thermoregulation which is lost with a severe burn. This has less to do with overwhelmed sweat glands as seen with heat stroke or exhaustion. With sun poisoning the effect is because the sweat glands quite literally burned in addition to the rest of the exposed areas of skin.
From an appearance point of view, ‘sun poisoning’ will still appear as severe sunburn. The term ‘sun poisoning’ as used non-clinically refers to the other symptoms experienced such as fever, chills, and nausea. When these symptoms develop will vary widely based on how much an individual can tolerate and how much of their body surface area is affected.
It is important to note that there is a technical difference between a heat stroke and sunburn. Heat stroke only requires intense heat- there is no need for sun exposure to achieve this. Sunburns or sun poisoning require UV radiation to achieve- there is no need for heat. For example, it is not uncommon for skiers in subzero temperatures to experience a ‘sunburn’ as the UV is intense and magnified by fresh snow in spite of cold temperatures.
Sunburns are the result of spending time exposed to UV radiation primarily from the sun. Artificial UV exposures can occur with tanning beds as well. Sun poisoning is a result of how extensive the sunburn is. Sunburns that are extensive and/or deep in the skin will make it more difficult for your body to regulate temperature. When this occurs, symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, and malaise can kick in.
What do parents need to know about the safest sunscreen options?
Parents should strongly consider both UPF and SPF regarding sunscreen options. UPF is the UV protection that clothing offers. The only way this can be safely determined is if a label is attached to the clothing that indicates it was actually tested for UV protection. The sun protection offered by summer clothing items and children’s clothing items can be as low as a 3 based on numerous studies. The risk is a false sense of security from chronic UV exposure through clothing. Although the child may not experience a burn to indicate the level of damage on a single occasion, cumulative UV exposure can damage the DNA of cells and progress to skin cancer later in life.
Hats should also have a UPF rating to get a true sense of the hat's ability to protect against UV.
In terms of SPF, it is important to look for zinc and /or titanium as the active ingredients in your sunscreen. These are the only two ingredients noted by the FDA as ‘GRASE’ - Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective.
The chemical sunscreen ingredients have been shown to be absorbed and measured in the bloodstream after even a single day of use. With unclear implications of endocrine disruption, children are the group that we are concerned the most about when it comes to potential risks.
My research team went to every local store to determine what aspects of labels parents can shop by. Ideally, sunscreen should be chosen based on the ingredient label, not the name brand. The active ingredients should only list Zinc and/or Titanium. The only consistent finding our team found was that if the word “babies” was on the label, there was the highest likelihood of finding these as the only active ingredients. We could not say the same for labels indicating “kids”. Also, spray versions of sunscreens, although much easier to use, are rarely if ever zinc and/or titanium-based products. The reason may be as practical as the nozzle clogs too easily with the larger particle size.
Stick sunscreens are also beneficial to consider for ease of application.
Sunglasses should specify that UVA and UVB are blocked. If this is not indicated, do not use them. The risk of the pupils dilating behind the shade-provided sunglasses without adequate UV protection can expose the eye to higher levels of UV than would otherwise occur. The complete sun safety plan should include UPF clothing, Hats, Sunblock, and Sunglasses.
Is there anything else you think our readers need to know on this subject?
Practically speaking, if you feel as though a spray sunscreen is your only option for ease of application or chemical sunscreen, it is not that these should be avoided entirely. We need to focus on minimizing their use. My research team is studying the role that increasing skin coverage with UPF clothing and its impact on reducing the need for sunscreen products. By focusing on the whole package, clothing/hats/sunglasses/sunscreen - you can achieve more effective and safe sun protection for your kids!