Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Simple guidelines can protect you from sun, bugs, heat

School is done, chilly days are behind us and summer is here. With longer and warmer days all of us are eager to get out and enjoy the outdoors. But our enthusiasm must be balanced with a certain amount of caution and awareness.

Fun in the sun

Sun burn is probably one of the common problems. These guidelines will help prevent some of the nasty sun burns I have seen in my office:
 Avoid exposure to sun and dress infants younger than six months with long pants and long sleeve cotton shirts and using hats.
 Keep infants in shade at all times and avoid using sun screen.
 For infants older than six months and young children, use of sunscreen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 is recommended. Apply sun screen 30 minutes before going out, for example before you start your trip to the beach rather than just before getting in the water.
 Remember to apply sunscreen every two hours while you are outdoors, especially after swimming. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen –about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
 Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours -- between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
 Don’t forget sun glasses, which can prevent eye damage.

Keep the bugs out

Another common summertime problem is insect bites, including ticks:
 Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in full bloom.
 Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child or yourself.
 Avoid wearing bright colors.
 Do not use combination sunscreen/insect repellent products because sun screen needs to be reapplied every two hours, and bug spray should not be reapplied.
 Choose sprays containing DEET, as it is one of the most effective insect repellents against mosquitoes and ticks. Please note DEET should not be used on children younger than two months of age.
 In the event of being bit by a tick or bee, gently scrape the tick or the stinger with a credit card or similar. Start from where the tick has buried its head towards the body and not the other way, if you want remove the tick in its entirety. Deer ticks are small and only one in three tick bites are at risk of developing Lyme disease. Always check your children for ticks after you have visited parks or wooded areas.

Keep cool in hot sun

Managing problems of heat are next on my list:
 Avoid prolonged strenuous activity on hot days.
 Make sure children are well-hydrated before start of any physical activity and enforce frequent breaks, for example every 20 minutes. Avoid games or practice on really hot days.
 Drink cold tap water rather than a sports drink.
 Wear light-colored and light-weight clothing and change sweat drenched clothes with dry ones.
 Use shaded areas for your breaks and dry your sweat as often as possible.

For those of us in the northeast, we like to pack as much fun as possible into our sometimes too short summers. Let’s make it a memorable one. Have a happy and safe summer.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is a pediatrician on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Prakash and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org, or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

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