Summer is here! Living in Northeastern Ohio, there is a lot to celebrate when the sun finally comes out to stay. If you’re like me, you’ve had some cooped-up kids throughout the winter who are excited to finally play outdoors.
As a Physician Assistant for Apex Dermatology, I, Andy Porter, PA-C, answer questions regarding summer safety daily. As a dad of two small kids myself, I wanted to write a blog to outline some safety tips to enjoy a healthy skin summer.
Many know that excess sun exposure as a kid can increase your chance of a number of skin ailments as you age, skin cancer among the most dangerous, but few take that information to heart.
Let’s dive into why it’s vital to lead your kids toward healthy skin habits in the sun from a young age.
What is a sunburn?
A Sunburn is an injury to your skin much like a regular burn caused by harmful UV rays.
“Typically, it appears a few hours after prolonged and unprotected sun exposure as red, dry, painful skin. If it’s a more severe burn, blistering can be present.”
How can I prevent a sunburn for my child?
“In general, try to avoid being out at peak UV hours between 11am – 3pm. Stay in the shade if you can and dress your children in sun protective clothing with long sleeves and brimmed hats. UV protective swimwear such as UVskinz is also a great way to protect them.”
For children under 6 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding sun exposure altogether. If that isn’t an option, it is safe to use a mineral sunscreen SPF 15 sparingly in small areas like the face or arms.
For Children over 6 months old, follow the above advice about avoidance. Otherwise use a sunscreen with SPF between 30 and 50, applying 15-20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplying every 2 hours and whenever they get out of the water (even if it says water-resistant!).
What kind of sunscreen is safest for my Child?
Look at the ingredients on the back of the bottle more than the name on the front!
Looking for sunscreens with the active ingredients Titanium dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These are commonly referred to as mineral sunscreens.
“Organic sunscreens (Often containing Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, or other ingredients with similar names) are widely available and safe for adults to use, but with their increased systemic absorption and generally higher risk of causing skin irritation and rashes, minerals are preferred for kids.”
Mineral Sunscreens are not absorbed into the skin and form a physical barrier that blocks dangerous UV rays
What can I do if my child gets a sunburn?
Sadly, there isn’t a lot to do to reverse the injury. It will last about 7 to 10 days and go away on its own.
You can treat the symptoms of pain and dryness with cool and moist compresses, calamine lotion, or aloe vera based gels to relieve some of the discomfort
“For worse burns with blistering, I would recommend coming to see your dermatologist for evaluation and treatment, but until then you should keep the blistering areas intact if you can and clean with soap and water. Try to keep covered with a bland moisturizer such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. If there are any open areas, a topical antibiotic such as bacitracin is a good idea to prevent infection.”
The sun isn’t the only thing to worry about for your skin this summer! The bugs also love to enjoy the extra warmth of summer, but that often means an increased risk of bug bites when the kids are out playing.
What can I do to protect my kids against bug bites?
Insect repellents containing DEET are considered safe by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use on children older than 2 months.
“DEET helps protect against biting insects like ticks and mosquitos. The concentration is generally about how long it will be effective for (Ex. 10% will work for an hour or two, 30% for 5 hours). Use the lowest concentration needed for how long you’ll be out and look for products containing only 10-30% DEET.”
Picaridin is another active insect repellent that is available. It is a plant-derived compound with similar efficacy as DEET that is normally very well tolerated as it is not sticky, odorous, or greasy. Just note that it may not last as long and require reapplication if you start noticing bites.
Make sure to apply the repellant for your kids to make sure they only use just enough to cover the exposed skin and outside of clothes.
Alternatives such as bracelets or stickers may help, but overall haven’t been proven to be as effective.
What can I do if my child was bitten by mosquitos?
We have all been there and know it’s miserable to get mosquito bites. You’ll typically see raised, red welts that are itchy and sometimes painful.
Children can have an exaggerated response and within a few hours the sites can be very red and irritated
“To treat symptoms, wash the areas with soap and water, apply cool compress, and use topical creams such as calamine lotion or over the counter hydrocortisone on the body or extremities. If you have any concerns or if this isn’t helping, call our offices.”
What if I find a tick on my child?
Make sure that you are checking your kids after they come in from playing in the woods, going on hikes, or playing in tall grass.
If you find a tick attached to your child, the best way to remove them is with tweezers and patience, following these steps:
- Grasp the tick firmly, but not overly tight, as close to the skin as you can.
- Pull with gentle, firm pressure directly away from the skin. Avoid twisting or yanking as this may leave parts of the tick embedded in the skin
- Keep pressure until the tick is removed. Examine it to make sure it’s intact, and an easy way to check is to see if it’s still alive and wiggling (gross, I know). Then safely discard it.
- Clean the area well with soap and water or alcohol.
“Ticks are typically small, but if the tick is enlarged it may have been embedded for an extended period of time. If you aren’t sure how long it has been attached, if you notice any rash (especially if it looks like a bullseye) you should seek medical attention.”
Finally, if your child develops a rash after playing outside there are a few common irritants that might be to blame. But keep in mind that sometimes rashes can look like other skin conditions, so it’s always best to seek dermatology care for a proper diagnosis.
Be on the lookout for a plant with three leaflets coming from a stem that may or may not have flowering buds on it. Remember, “Leaves a three, let it be”
If you suspect your child may have been in contact with poison ivy, remove any of their clothing that may have been in contact to wash. They should wash up with warm water and dish soap on the exposed skin as soon as possible! If done within 10 minutes almost 50% of the rash producing oils can be removed to minimize the risk of reaction
It can start within 1-14 days after exposure and is in any area where the irritating substance from the plant touched. It typically is a very itchy, red, and blistering rash that can be in streaks where the plant touched. The fluid in the blisters does not spread it!
If you suspect your child has come in contact with poison ivy, please seek medical attention as sometimes prescription topical steroids or oral steroids are needed for prompt symptom relief and resolution. Prior to your appointment, treat with cool compress, Motrin for pain as needed, or Benadryl for itching as needed.
This is a short-term rash caused by a blockage in sweat ducts. It’s most commonly seen in infants and happens in hot environments.
There are different types, but most commonly it will appear as small red bumps on the neck, underarms, chest, back, and groin.
If you start noticing this on your baby, move them to a cooler environment if possible. Make sure your children are dressed appropriately for the weather with breathable clothing.
I know it seems like a lot to keep track of, but hopefully this blog can help serve as a useful guide to help you with some of the common issues we run into in the dermatology world when it comes to your children’s skin health. And if not, you can always book an appointment to have a trained eye on the problem. So whether you’re going on a hike, lounging on the beach, or having a day at the park, get outside with your family and enjoy the summer!
Andy Porter is an NCCPA Certified Physician Assistant at Apex Dermatology. He is originally from Illinois, where he graduated from Elmhurst College with his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, earning a certificate of excellence from the department. He moved to Ohio to attend Baldwin Wallace University for PA school and graduated in 2016.
Andy began his career practicing emergency medicine, spending the first three years of his career working at UH Parma ED where he served as lead PA. He also spent several years working at Cleveland Clinic Marymount Emergency Department.
Andy is capable of evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of both acute and chronic skin conditions for patients of all ages. He trained under Dr. Gregory Delost through the Apex Dermatology fellowship program.
In his personal life, he likes to spend time with his family and get outside to northeast Ohio’s many mountain biking trails!