Sunscreen and Bug Spray Q & A

Tribeca Pediatrics Newsletter

Summer is in full swing and the heat is on! It’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors, which can come with it’s own set of discomforts, namely, sunburn and bug bites. Dr. Maja Castillo, of our Chelsea office, came to the rescue to give you help tips you need to get through those dog days of summer!

The UVA’s and UVB’s of Sunscreen

We all know how important sunscreen is to reduce exposure to the sun’s harmful and painful UV rays. There’s a lot of information regarding proper use and types of sunscreen, it’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed. Here is some helpful advice from Dr. Castillo:

When should I start using sunscreen on my baby?
For sunscreens most manufacturers state sunscreen should be used only over 6 months of age. There are two types of sunscreens: chemical sunscreens and barrier sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens neutralize UV rays. Barrier sunscreens use zinc oxide to block sun rays. While I do think it’s best to try to minimize sun exposure for babies under 6 months, especially during peak hours (10am to 3pm) of the summer, I also know it’s impossible to avoid the sun 100%. For infants over 2 months, I think using barrier sunscreens with zinc as the active ingredient is a good idea when you are on the beach or going to take a dip in the pool. Sun rays bounce off water and can even get to an infant under a sun umbrella!

How often should sunscreen be applied?
No matter what age the child is, sunscreens need to be reapplied every 1-2 hours. You really don’t need more than 30 SPF but reapplication is key and is what is most often forgotten. Remember to apply even when it’s hazy or cloudy outside. UV rays will penetrate and I most often see kids with severe sunburns when they’ve been out all day on a cloudy cooler day!

What are some of your favorite brands to use?
For barrier sunscreens, Blue Lizard and Neutrogena Baby Face Stick. For a combination of barrier and mild chemical sunscreen, I recommend Vanicream.

What other precautions should I take?
Avoid any spray sunscreen! Although spray sunscreens are easy and convenient to apply, it wears off very quickly and also contains high levels of skin irritants. I’ve seen kids covered in blisters from spray and pediatric dermatologists say they are horribly harsh on sensitive skin.

Beating the Bugs

With all the worry about bug-borne illnesses, getting the right info on insect repellents definitely has its challenges as well. Dr. Castillo provides us with handy information on this topic too!

Is it safe to use insect repellent?  
Insect repellents are generally safe over 2 months of age. Per the CDC, even DEET (up to 30%) is safe on kids skin, however, there are newer repellents that may be better. Picaridin is a repellent formulated to mimic a component in black pepper! It may actually be more effective against ticks and other insects.

What precautions should I take when applying insect repellent to my child?
Generally for children under three, who often put their hands in their mouths, I prefer to have parents apply DEET or Picaridin to clothing, shoes, hats and strollers and use natural oils, such as Badger Balm, to the skin. It’s also a good idea to use netting and light weight long sleeved clothing for infants instead of relying on repellents. Remember they can’t tell you when they are being bitten. I’ve seen small children (including my own) get totally attacked in the park and covered in bites in 5-10 minutes!

Favorite brands and why? What about reapplication?
– Sawyer Picaridin Lotion (for skin) and Spray (for clothing) – lasts 8 hours
– Avon Picaridin Pipes – Individual packs for backpacks and diaper bags
– Badger Balm – Natural but needs to be reapplied every 1-2 hours.
– Oil of Eucalyptus – More natural and safer than deet but can irritate skin so it’s recommended 3 years and up. It needs to be reapplied every 4-6 hours.

Summer can be a rough season to weather when it comes to protecting the delicate skin of your little ones, but thanks to Dr. Castillo’s sage and to-the-point advice, we’re sure you and your family will be armed and ready for whatever comes your way! As always, be sure to give us a call if you have any lingering questions!