More Warm Weather Tidbits: sunscreen, swimming, bug bites, and bike helmets

Here’s a quick blast of more summer hints.

Sunscreen:  Apply SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15, and use more than you think is necessary.  SPF gives you an idea of how long it may take you to burn.  SPF of 15 means you will take 15 times longer to burn…if you burn in one minute, that’s only 15 minutes of protection! So apply, reapply and reapply. Sunscreen is fine for even young babies. For a baby’s first application of sunscreen, test the sunscreen by rubbing a small amount (size of a quarter) on the inner forearm and watch for a reaction. Clothing and shade work best to protect the skin, but not all clothing is protective. Depending on the weave and the fabric, protection fluctuates with each piece of clothing. Look for UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings. A UPF rating measures the amount of UV light that reaches your skin. Higher numbers are better. For example, a rating of 100 means 1/100 or one percent of all rays will reach the skin.

Swimming:  Lessons are fun and safe for all ages (including young toddlers). Studies have shown that children who drown are more likely to NOT have had swimming lessons compared to same age children who have not drowned.  Even if he graduated from swimming lessons, attend to your child around water, whether it is a swimming pool, lake, puddle or bath. Lessons are not a substitute for adult supervision. Also, do not submerge your baby underwater. Contrary to media hype, your baby will NOT automatically hold his breath.

Patients frequently ask me when pool water is safe for a baby’s skin. Frankly, I worry more about sunburn from sunlight reflecting off the water than damage from contact with pool water. Just wash her with soap and water after she is done swimming for the day. If the chlorine in a pool seems to dry your baby’s skin, apply moisturizer after her bath.

Mosquito Bites:  Initially wash with soap and water. For the itch: apply hydrocortisone 1% cream or ointment up to 4 times daily. Give oral diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) before bedtime to prevent your child from scratching in his sleep. Signs of an infected bite include new or worsening pain, increasing redness, any pus-filled area, or red streaks extending from the bite. Swelling, itchiness, and some redness at the site of the bite are signs of local irritation but not necessarily infection.

Bike helmets:  Insist on the use of bike helmets. Head trauma from falling off bikes, roller blades, scooters, and skateboards often happen in the summer when kids say they are “too hot” to wear their helmet.

I would write more, but I have to go adjust a bike helmet on my sun-screened son who is scratching his bug bite as he is getting ready to bike to a neighbor’s pool to swim, under adult supervision.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠            

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