How To Safely Protect Your Kids From Sun and Bugs

Kids laying in grass

During the spring and summer months, parents and pediatricians rejoice at the opportunity for kids to be active outside. But along with the fun, come potential risks from sun exposure and insect bites. Here are some tips for protecting your kids:

Stay Safe in the Sun

Every episode of sun exposure puts your child at risk for cancer–unless they are protected.

UV-A and UV-B rays are the most concerning for skin health. While UV-B rays are more likely to burn your skin and UV-A rays cause more of skin aging, both can cause cancer. Therefore, the first thing to look for in a sunscreen is protection from BOTH UV-A and UV-B rays.

SPF, or "Sun Protection Factor," is a measurement of a product’s UV-blocking ability in a specific time frame. Simply put, the higher the number, the greater the protection. The minimum SPF, especially for children, should be 30. Keep in mind that the protection number is only accurate if the sunscreen is applied liberally to the skin. A thin layer will impart less protection.

Adding the protection of clothing, such as hats and sleeves, and keeping to the shade as much as possible will greatly increase skin protection.

Sunscreen should be worn every day and be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow it to fully sink into the skin where it works. It should be reapplied every two hours, or sooner if after swimming or extreme sweating.

Avoid Insect Bites: DEET is OK

As warmer weather coaxes you and your kids into the territory of bugs and ticks, it’s important to take protective measures.

DEET, the main ingredient in most bug sprays, is a chemical that blocks the scent receptors in mosquitoes, ticks and many other stinging insects to prevent them from smelling your skin as a target.

Many people voice a concern about the safety of DEET, but it is very safe for kids when used appropriately:

  • A concentration of 10-30% DEET in a spray has been studied and is safe for babies and children older than the age of 2 months.
  • DEET should not be ingested or placed in contact with mucous membranes, like those of the eyes, mouth or nose; therefore don't spray the face or a child's hands. Don't spray on broken skin either.
  • DEET should not be placed under clothing or on skin covered by clothing or equipment. Spray on exposed skin only. Bathe your child prior to going to bed if bug spray was used that day.
  • A product with 10% DEET will offer two hours of protection, whereas 30 percent DEET can give up to five hours of protection.
author name

Joan B. Thode, MD

Joan B. Thode, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with LG Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics.

Education: Undergraduate–Franklin & Marshall College; Medical School–George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Residency–NYU Langone Medical Center.

Schedule an Appointment Call: 717-569-6481

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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