Summer’s here and the time is right—for bug bites, sunburn, rashes, prickly heat, poison oak/ivy, and a host of other skin maladies. Unfortunately, children are especially vulnerable to many of these pesky problems. Sensitive skin coupled with youthful enthusiasm can leave them complaining, suffering, and scratching.

Some Summer Skin Snafus

Here’s a short list of some of the common skin concerns you might face this season:

  • Bug bites and stings: mosquitos, ticks, fleas, chiggers, flies, bees, ants, etc.
  • Sunburn and sun allergies
  • Prickly heat/heat rash
  • Swimmer’s itch, seabather’s eruption (pica-pica)
  • Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac
  • Dry or irritated skin

This site may help you correctly ID what kind of bite or rash your child has:
The good news is that most of these aren’t too serious, and can be prevented or easily treated without a visit to the doctor.  Many of these conditions go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If a problem persists or worsens, or if your child has a severe reaction, do not hesitate to go to a doctor.

An Ounce of Prevention

What can you do to protect your little ones from the hazards of summer fun? There are measures you can take, including safer, chemical-free options. Here are some tips:
Obviously, the best way to minimize the chance of skin problems is to avoid the cause. This isn’t always practical, but teaching your children about sun safety, avoiding bugs, toxic plants, and other hazards is a good first step. When you aren’t there to keep an eye on them, they can be protected with this knowledge.
When you are watching them, there are many steps you can take to ensure they stay safe and scratch less:
Sun Safety: Wear lightweight, long sleeves and pants when possible, with an SPF rating of 50. Wear hats and neck protection, along with sunglasses. Apply broad spectrum sunblock (SPF 50 or better) regularly. Use a child-safe sunblock that is titanium or zinc-based and free of PABA, parabens, and phthalates.
Beat the Bugs:  Bug repellant is key, but studies have shown that DEET, while effective, may not be safe for tots to use. Look for natural, scent and oil-based repellants or wristbands and re-apply often. Don’t let kids share hats (lice) and be aware of bedbug or chigger concerns at camps, hotels, etc.
Safe Swimming: Don’t let kids linger in the water too long. Keep an eye out for jellyfish or other warnings, and don’t forget that biting flies, mosquitoes and other no see-ums love fresh and saltwater. Shower as soon as possible after swimming.
Resist Rashes:  Loose fitting and breathable clothing helps prevent prickly heat.
Ditch the Itch: Several products are on the market that will help coat and protect tender skin from the urushiol oils found in poison oak, ivy, and sumac. Long sleeves and pants help, too.

Treat the Tricks (A Pound of Cures)

Even with your best efforts, however, something might slip through the steps you take. When that happens, the resources below will provide you a wealth of ways to stop the pain, swelling or dreaded itching.There are many treatments available in the local pharmacy, your medicine cabinet, or perhaps even in your kitchen:

  • Oral and topical antihistamines, benzocaine, sting wipes or liquid
  • Hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, aloe vera, witch hazel, alcohol
  • Aspirin or other NSAIDs, Tylenol
  • Baking soda paste, white or apple cider vinegar, sea salt and water
  • Ice or cold compresses
  • Essential oils like Tea Tree, lavender, and chamomile
  • Oatmeal soaps and baths

Treating poison oak/ivy/sumac requires a more specialized method to remove the urushiol oils. While some of the above remedies will help, products like Tecnu, Zanfel, and even Dawn dish soap can help remove the oils and minimize the reaction if applied as soon as possible after exposure.
A carefree summer of fun awaits you and your kids. So get out there and hike, bike, swim, play, barbecue and enjoy yourselves safely.  For more information on skin care, child safety, and summer fun, search