Summer is a season that many eagerly await with opportunities to embrace the sun's warmth, connect with nature, and unwind. However, it is also a time to ensure our children are safe from potential health hazards from the sun and insects, as well as staying safe in the water. Be sure to consider the following precautions when venturing outdoors with your children this summer.

Slather on the Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a crucial preventive measure to take when spending time outside. It is safe to use on children ages six months and older and you want to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet, UVA, and UVB light to ensure optimal protection.

Sun protection factor (SPF) measures the time it takes for the sun's UV rays to burn the skin. It is advisable to use SPF 30 and higher for daily outdoor use and apply at least two tablespoons of sunscreen to cover all skin surfaces except for the eyelids. Depending on the activity, reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating and swimming.

Areas of higher elevation, such as mountains, can amplify exposure to UV light reflecting off concrete, sand, snow, or water. It is advisable to apply sunscreen 30 minutes to two hours before sun exposure. You can also use physical blockers, such as mineral sunscreen, that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which may help to minimize skin irritation due to sunscreen use. Mineral sunscreen is great for children but will require frequent application as it reflects harmful UV rays. You can purchase physical sun blockers at local pharmacies, beauty supply stores, or online. Speak with your provider about the best option for you and your family.

UV rays can penetrate through clouds, even on a cloudy day. If seeking greater protection, clothing with UV or UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 30 or higher can be helpful. To avoid direct sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, wear sunglasses, a hat, and a long-sleeved shirt, and utilize an umbrella or shaded area.

Establish a practice of self-examination. When appropriate, monitor your skin monthly for any obvious changes in the skin. If moles are apparent, check for changes in size, shape, color, or character. Schedule an appointment with your provider for further evaluation.

Invest in Insect Repellent

Insect repellent is also vital to prevent bug bites. Use these tips to ensure a repellent does the most for you and your family.

  • Select the right repellent for the job. When using insect repellent, be sure to read the labels and select the repellent suitable for the insect(s) you are trying to prevent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using repellents with picaridin (IR3535) or oil of lemon eucalyptus to avoid mosquito bites. For ticks, a spray with 20 percent or more of DEET repellent is effective.
  • Follow instructions. Follow instructions. Always read the label before applying and ensure insect repellent is used outdoors and away from food. Follow the instructions and reapply as needed. Do not apply near the eyes or mouth, under clothing, or over sunburn, cuts, or wounds.
  • Combine with other protection. For further protection, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors and stay indoors during the highest mosquito activity at dawn or dusk.

If a mosquito bite is itchy, apply calamine lotion, antihistamine cream, a cold compress, or corticosteroid cream. Avoid scratching the bite, as it may lead to infection.

The Wonders of Water Safety

Water safety is also critical when spending time near pools or other bodies of water. Before your trip to the beach or local community pool, enroll your children in swimming lessons to improve their movement and comfort in the water. For children under four, look for a program that involves parents, qualified teachers, and a fun atmosphere. For parents, consider a CPR certification to be prepared in the case of an emergency.

The Code of Colorado Regulations requires pool entry to be secured by a fence or barrier to protect children and pets from potential hazards. While in the water, always supervise your children, and do not rely on flotation devices to keep them safe and afloat.

Cryptosporidium (diarrhea) is highly contagious in areas of recreational water, and it is best practice to avoid pools that are dirty to prevent infections. Teach children to avoid swallowing water from the pool and instead spit it out. To avoid eye irritation or redness, wear swimming goggles. For swimmers' ears, consider earplugs as a preventative measure against infection. Most importantly, if on a boat, everyone should wear a life vest.;

Bhavna Bali, MD

Dr. Bali is a pediatrician at Peak Vista Community Health Centers' Pediatric Health Center at International Circle. She believes in providing care to families by being part of their community and speaks three languages fluently. Dr. Bali is enthusiastic about providing care for underserved communities, and in her free time enjoys traveling, reading, and theater.

To make an appointment or to learn more about other Peak Vista services, visit peakvista.org or call (719) 632-5700.