Despite the oppressive triple digit heat, many people are savoring those last few moments of summer vacation participating in outdoor activities. But the increase in fun in the sun could mean an increase in bug bites and sunburns.
Anna Myers, M.D., a Scott & White pediatrician, offers some advice on how to protect you and your kids from those nagging insects and damaging rays.
Mosquitoes and chiggers are the main culprits when it comes to biting bugs in Central Texas, the doctor said. But bee stings are also common.
“Early in the course of a bite, you can see just a histamine reaction, which is the body’s reaction to a bite, and it can cause some redness and warmth around the bite,” Dr. Myers said.
If a bite seems to be getting bigger or redder in appearance, is not responding to treatment at home, has a yellow discharge from the bite, or a large surrounding ring of redness, Dr. Myers recommends that the person be seen by a doctor.
If the bite is not severe, but is causing some discomfort, Dr. Myers suggests cool compresses and Benadryl by mouth if the child is old enough.
Some children may also have allergies to certain bug bites, which could cause a larger reaction.
“It’s called a systemic or generalized reaction, where a child may have a severe allergic response called anaphylaxis,” she said. “Where they may have shortness of breath or wheezing, hives, generalized itching from head to toe or extreme swelling of other body parts.”
A parent should definitely call 911 if their child has shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness or loss of consciousness.
To prevent bug bites from happening in the first place, Dr. Myers suggests applying bug repellent before heading outdoors.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using products that have no greater than 30 percent DEET,” she said. “And certainly in younger children, I would use the lowest concentration that is still effective.”
The repellent should be applied to exposed areas of the skin, but not under clothing. Spray your hands and then apply the repellent to your face, avoiding the eyes.
“And you would also want to avoid products that combine insect repellent and sunscreen,” Dr. Myers said. “With insect repellent, usually one application is sufficient. But with sunscreen, you want to be reapplying that frequently.”
The pediatrician recommends liberal application of sunscreen, applied 20 to 30 minutes prior to going out in the sun and continued reapplication every two to three hours.
“If you are going to be in the water, I recommend applying every 60 to 80 minutes.”
The sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and 30 or higher in children who tend to burn more easily, and contain protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
And if you’re planning to head to the pool with your sunscreened-infant, the pediatrician recommends that they be over the age of six months.
“If a parent is going to take an infant out in the sun who’s less than six months of age, I do recommend making sure that they have a bonnet on, that their skin is mostly covered and that they’re in a shaded area,” she said.
And if they absolutely need to use sunscreen, the parent should test a patch of skin first to make sure their infant doesn’t have a reaction.
Even with the best sunscreen, over-exposure to the sun could result in a sunburn.
“The best thing is just cool compresses to alleviate hot, irritated skin,” Dr. Myers said. “You can use aloe vera gel to help soothe the skin after a sunburn … And I also encourage parents to use Tylenol or Motrin if their child has feverish skin or has pain associated with sunburn.”
Products containing petroleum jelly are not recommended because they can trap heat in the skin.
The pediatrician reminds parents that even on cloudy days, the chance for sun damage is possible.
“You still have the same UV exposure,” she said. “It’s not all filtered out by the clouds.”
Sunscreen is the best defense against sunburns, but only if the sun block you are using has not expired. Dr. Myers said the best course of action is to replace your sunscreen every year.
For more information about bug bites and sunburns, contact your primary care physician. For Scott & White patients, click here to find your clinic.
Below are a few more tips to help you care for bug-bitten and sun-damaged skin.
How to Remove a Bee Stinger
- The stinger should be removed by scraping horizontally over the skin with a credit card or other hard, flat item.
- Avoid using tweezers to remove the stinger.
- If you grab the stinger with tweezers, it can actually squeeze more venom into the skin, causing greater discomfort and swelling.
The A,B,C,Ds of Assessing Sun-Damaged Moles
- A – look for asymmetry to see if there’s any significant difference in the shape of the mole.
- B – Look at the border of the mole to see if it’s irregular.
- C – Look at the color of the mole. If it looks very darkly pigmented, it is of greater concern.
- D – Look at the diameter or the size of the mole.