• Ask the Pediatrician

    Question: What do you recommend in terms of sunscreen for kids? And what’s your advice for choosing bug spray?

    Answer: Sunscreen is essential for keeping skin safe from ultraviolet (UV) light, which can cause skin damage.

    Protecting young skin has long-lasting effects: Good practices now can prevent skin cancer later in life. Some medications, such as acne medicines, make skin especially sensitive.

    SPF 15 or higher

    Sunscreen should have a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and be used for children 6 months of age and older. Look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, the kind that protects against both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays).

    Sunscreen is most effective when used 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Apply it generously, and reapply every 2 hours. Zinc oxide is effective on areas especially sensitive to burns, like the face.

    Try to stay away from the sun in the middle of the day when rays are most damaging. Protective clothing, such as shirts with built-in sun protection, or hats, can help. Remember sunglasses for eye protection. Since water and sand reflect sunlight, consider surf shirts for the beach or pool.

    Keep bugs at bay

    Insect bites can be more than just itchy. They can spread disease. Avoid areas where insects gather. Wearing long sleeves and pants can help protect you from bug bites. You may want to consider a bug spray.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics considers bug spray containing DEET the most effective repellent against biting insects and says it is safe for children 2 months of age and older. However, concentrations of no more than 30 percent DEET should be used for children.

    Use sprays sparingly because of the potential for toxicity. Lightly spray exposed skin and do not reapply. Avoid spraying on the face. Wash spray off your body and clothing after use.

    Avoid sunscreens containing DEET because reapplication can lead to too much DEET exposure. Alternatives include: Picardin (less toxic but also less effective), Permethrin sprays (only for use on clothing) and essential oils (also less effective).

    Have fun outdoors this summer and remember that prevention is best when it comes to burns and bites.

  • Sarah Selickman Heidt, MD.

    Sarah Selickman Heidt, MD, is a community pediatrician affiliated with Cincinnat Children's. She practices at Pediatric Associates of Mt. Carmel. She is president of the Cincinnati Pediatric Society.

    If you have questions for the pediatrician, email youngandhealthy@cchmc.org.