MARQUETTE - The summer sun and warm weather make it fun to spend lots of time outside. Without some precautions however, that time spent outdoors can bring some uncomfortable or painful results, particularly for young kids.
Particularly during the summer, parents and other adults should be sure to take steps to protect young children and young teens from the summer elements - including the strong sun and the bugs that are a part of U.P. life.
"You don't want to get sunburnt," said pediatrician Dr. Robert Van Howe. "The damage that sets you up for cancer is cumulative."
Amy Yesney applies sunscreen to her son Weston, 5, at McCarty's Cove in Marquette Wednesday afternoon. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Although it may be tempting to head outside in the middle of the day, experts recommend staying out of the sun during the hours from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest.
While the most immediate effect of too much sun exposure can be a painful sunburn, the long-term effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun include serious health problems later in life, like skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, cataracts and immune system suppression, with children being particularly at risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which tracks and forecasts UV ratings for different areas of the country.
To keep young skin healthy throughout the summer, parents should remember to seek shade whenever possible.
If kids (and adults) are going to be outside in the sun, parents should remember to put on a generous layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen, blocking both UVA and UVB rays. Select a sun screen with an SPF of at least 30 or 45 and apply it according to the package directions, Van Howe said. Even waterproof sunscreen wont last all day, and most need to be reapplied every two hours.
When applying sunscreen make sure not to forget the backs of knees, ears, the eye area, the neck and scalp.
"Especially if they're not walking yet, sunscreen probably isn't enough," Van Howe said of babies and toddlers.
Kids should also be covered up with clothing, including wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long sleeves and pants, if possible. Lighter fabrics might not offer as much protection as you'd think, so the darker and more tightly-woven the fabric is, the more protection it offers.
"People underestimate how much sun they're getting," Van Howe said. "When in doubt, put more on."
The EPA also advises using caution around sand and water, which can reflect the sun's rays and increase the chance of getting a sunburn.
With the sun comes hot weather, which brings its own concerns for young kids, Van Howe said.
"When it's hot out, make sure they get plenty of fluids to drink," he said, with the best fluid being water.
Because kids don't sweat as much as adults, Van Howe said the heat has a greater effect on them, particularly if they are running around playing. Besides making sure there's water inside their bodies, get out the sprinkler or kiddie pool to let them play in the water and cool off.
Besides the sun, another factor of U.P. summer life are bugs, with mosquitos and biting flies leaving itchy bumps on the skin.
Van Howe said there is a variety of types of bug sprays, and parents should read labels and do some research to determine what chemicals they are comfortable using, bearing in mind kids' skin absorbs chemicals at a faster rate than adult skin.
"I think different parents have different thresholds," he said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, insect repellants prevent bites from biting insects like mosquitos, ticks and biting flies, but not stings from insects like bees, hornets or wasps. The AAP states chemical repellants containing DEET are usually the most effective, but should be used with caution around children. Repellants made with essential oils like citronella and cedar are considered much less effective.
DEET can range in concentrations from 10 percent to 30 percent, with higher percentages providing longer protection. The AAP recommends repellents for children contain no more than 30 percent DEET and not be used at all on children younger than two months.
For safety, parents should read all repellent labels, apply the repellent only to the outside of clothing or exposed skin and never sprayed directly into the face. The child's skin should be washed with soap and water to remove the repellent when they return indoors.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.