Joshua Frank, M.D.

Now that summer is approaching, our kids will be outside playing, swimming and having fun. With this fun, we must remember a few ways we can keep our kids safe, including using sunscreen and insect repellant, practicing smart pool and bicycle safety and remembering the importance of keeping our kids well hydrated.

We all want our children to be fit and spend time having fun outdoors. The first thing to remember is to apply sunscreen.  Sunscreen is safe and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all children ages 6 months and above.  Children under six months should be shielded from the sun as much as possible. 

There are entire aisles in most pharmacies devoted to sunscreen products. Most importantly, look for a product that specifically offers a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB protection. Also pay attention to the SPF rating, as you want to use any sunscreen that is SPF 15 or above. The SPF rating, that many of us are familiar with, specifically refers to the UVB protection.  Now there is a new star rating, which you may begin seeing (1 to 4 stars).  These stars refer to the UVA protection, with 4 stars offering the most protection. 

Make sure to apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside for optimum protection. The most common mistake is that we use an insufficient amount of sunscreen or not reapplying frequently.  Apply a generous amount and then reapply every two to four hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Also remember to wear a hat and lightweight clothing during warm weather and keep covered from the sun as much as possible.

Insect repellants are also safe and effective in kids aged 2 months and above. These insect repellants will provide protection against both mosquitoes and ticks. The active ingredient in most of these repellants is DEET. It is advisable to use the lowest effective concentration of DEET in kids – ranging from 10% to no more than 30%. Also, these repellants should be kept away from the eyes and mouths of children. DEET should be applied only once daily. 

Children should always be supervised when swimming in pools, lakes and the ocean.  In the past, swimming lessons were not recommended for children under four years old. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated this recommendation and now says children over one year old may participate in swimming lessons. Always remember that lessons are not synonymous with swim readiness, as children learn to swim at their own pace. Parents should use their best judgment.

Bicycle safety is also imperative. Most people don’t realize that hundreds of thousands of children are seriously injured each year in bicycle falls. Kids and parents should wear a well-fitting bicycle helmet at all times. All helmets should have the seal from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

Finally, drink plenty of cool water.