Doctors Notes:

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Eric Green

Since we are finally getting warmer temperatures and less rain, it is time to discuss some basic things that can be done to make your outdoor experiences as fun and safe as possible.  I would like to discuss with you some basics regarding the use of sunscreens and some products to minimize mosquito and tick encounters.


Sunscreens are an important component of actions that we can take to prevent sunburns.  We want to prevent sunburns because each sunburn we get will increase our lifetime risk for developing skin cancer.  There have also been studies that have shown that individuals living in the northern states do a poorer job of using sunscreens than our southern peers.

The  American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some basic recommendations:

  • Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least a SPF of 15. An ounce of sunscreen is an appropriate amount for an adult.  In our office we typically recommend an SPF 30.  Higher than this does not really provide any additional protection.
  • Apply ideally 30 minutes before heading outdoors so it has time to soak into the skin and provide optimal protection. Follow the labeling on the bottle regarding their recommendations for reapplication especially when in the water.  If not in the water, a general rule of thumb is every 2 hours.  Don’t apply and then immediately jump into the pool!
  • For children less than 6 months, the best prevention is to dress them in tightly woven fabric such as cotton that covers their arms, legs and a brimmed hat along with UV protecting sunglasses. If you are unable to do this and have to be outside, then applying a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher on their skin exposed surfaces is your next best option.
  • Try and minimize your time spent outdoors from 10 am to 4 pm as this is when the sun’s rays are most intense. Remember it is also important to use sunscreen on those cloudy days and reflections off of water, concrete and sand.
  • Look for a sunscreen without oxybenzone. A helpful website for choosing such sunscreens as well as many other products is Environmental Work Group.  We recommend mineral based sunscreens, especially for younger children. The active ingredients will read zinc
  • 15-20 minutes each morning of sun exposure without sunscreen is good for getting our needed daily dose of Vitamin D. Then come back in and lather up.
  • Having a tan does not mean “I don’t need to use a sunscreen!”

Call our office if your child has a sun burn and develops fever, pain or blistering.

Mosquitos and Ticks

Both of these insects can ruin a nice evening in the backyard or make us think twice about taking a hike with the kids.  There is a great program that was just started this year called the Nature-Rich Community Park Passport.  This is a fun program to encourage families to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.  Those visiting and answering correctly a question on at least 10 of the parks will be eligible for a prize.  You can find out more information on the Outdoor Discovery Center’s website.

Mosquitos and ticks can be annoying but both can also carry infectious diseases including West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease to name a couple, which is why prevention when possible is very important.


  • DEET is an effective and safe product to be used to deter both mosquitoes and ticks. A rule of thumb is that each 5% concentration of DEET will provide 1-2 hours of protection.  Do not use a concentration higher than 30% for children as no additional benefit is afforded by a greater amount.  Apply it to your hands and then wipe it on your child’s skin exposed areas.  Before going to bed wash off the DEET.
  • Minimizing the amount of exposed skin will help to minimize bites from either mosquitoes or ticks. Using a fan can help to provide protection because mosquitoes as they are not very strong at flying.  Light colored clothing will make it easier to identify ticks.  Tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Always do a tick check when coming back from an environment where ticks like to inhabit. In order for ticks to pass on enough bacteria to cause Lyme Disease they need to feed for at least 48 hours.  Their preferred environment includes woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses.  Nymphal deer ticks are more likely associated with Lyme Disease because they feed greater than 48 hours and they are more difficult to find than the larger adult ticks.  They increase activity in mid-May and peak in June.  The peak occurrence of Lyme Disease in June, July and August reflects increased tick activity and the incubation period of 2-3 weeks.  Lyme Disease carrying ticks are most commonly found in the Northeastern United States, along the west coast of Michigan (Holland) and the upper Midwest.
  • For information regarding removing ticks go the AAP’s website and search for “removing ticks.”
  • West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that do best in times of drought. Mosquitos like to be out early in the morning and late evening when there is less wind.  Other mosquitos prefer stagnant water, so keeping eaves troughs cleaned out and eliminating small pools of standing water can help minimize their habitats.  For water sources that cannot be eliminated, you can look into stocking it with mosquito-larvae eating fish or using natural bacteria that infect the mosquito-larvae and reduce their populations.
  • For more extensive information regarding insect repellants go to AAP’s website and search for “insect repellents.”

 I hope you found this information helpful. Enjoy your summer safely!