Summer is here and with it comes the opportunity to spend meaningful time with your kids in the backyard, at the beach or in the pool. These outdoor activities also provide good reminders for parents and perfect teachable moments for kids about the importance of summer safety. While you may feel like you are well-informed enough to discuss summer safety with your children, one area that tends to get confusing for parents is about the safety facts surrounding the chemicals that play a critical role protecting our families all summer long. Following are some key chemical safety facts to put your mind at ease, while teaching your kids why safety is a key ingredient to a fun and healthy summer break.
FUN IN THE SUN
As a parent, we all love fun in the sun, but let’s face it—when it comes to sunscreen, there’s likely no such thing as ‘too much of a good thing.’ It’s for good reason – according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Once more, exposure to the sun for extended periods of time can cause melanoma, advance signs of aging and carry other serious consequences.
However, no matter what your child’s age, you’re likely to encounter a struggle when applying sunscreen. Preempt that by talking to your children about why sunscreen is important in protecting their bodies and skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
If you have questions about the safety of sunscreen’s ingredients, you should know that according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sunscreen is safe to use, protects against sunburn and reduces the risk of skin cancer. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are both FDA-approved active ingredients in sunscreen.
Before heading to the pool or beach, keep these chemical safety facts in mind:
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends sunscreens with broad-spectrum UV protection and SPF 15 or higher.
- Sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are safe to use on children six months and older (AAD).
- The AAD suggests applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside, and at least every two hours thereafter (more often if you’re swimming).
DON’T BUG ME
Warm summer days and evenings can attract pesky insects and bug bites. According to new data from the CDC, illnesses from mosquitos, ticks and fleas have tripled in the U.S. over the last 13 years. In fact, the CDC recorded more than 640,000 cases of disease, such as Zika, West Nile and Lyme, caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick or flea in the U.S. and its territories from 2004 through 2016.
The good news is that uninvited bugs can often be deterred with prevention and a little chemistry. Do the words “DEET” and “pesticides” spark worry? Don’t stress. While your children romp around outside selling lemonade, jumping in the sprinklers and playing games remember these science-based facts and tips on staying bite free:
- The CDC recommends using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents, whose active ingredients have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness to prevent bug bites.
- The CDC also recommends using products with DEET. When used correctly, DEET helps deter and repel harmful bugs. Other details on DEET:
- According to the CDC, insect repellents that contain DEET offer excellent protection against mosquito bites. To find the insect repellant that is right for you and search by insect, protection time or active ingredient, visit this EPA website.
- The EPA has stated that the “normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children.”
- The CDC recommends applying sunscreen before insect repellant, and also notes that sunscreen may need to be re-applied more frequently after a product containing DEET is applied.
Though a common misconception, bug repellents, which are a type of pesticide, do not kill mosquitoes. People often think the word pesticide refers only to a product that kills insects, but pesticide is a broader term that includes products designed to repel – not kill – pests. Weave this fact into your conversation with your kid while you watch the power of repellent at work!
Pool days are a summer staple, and pool safety is a top concern for parents. While we often talk to our children about pool safety in terms of no running or diving in the shallow end, it’s equally important to note the chemicals that keep pools clean and clear. Thanks to chlorine, we can rest easy knowing our kids are splashing safely. When used properly, chlorine-based disinfectants help protect swimmers from bacteria and other germs that can cause problems like swimmer’s ear or diarrhea.
According to the CDC, chlorine is the first line of defense against germs that can make swimmers sick. Before taking your kids for a swim, keep in mind:
- Both chlorinated pools and salt-water pools require chlorine.
- A well-managed pool does not smell like chlorine.
- When pool water causes irritated eyes, it may be a sign there is not enough chlorine.
- Test your pool’s water every day to keep it safe.
Keeping your kids safe this summer doesn’t have to take away from fun activities. The importance of knowing the facts behind these topics will help you have better safety conversations with your children, which will ultimately help them develop healthy habits like wearing sunscreen and insect repellent. Just remember: sunscreen before bug spray, reapply as needed, and chlorine keeps everyone germ free. For more information on these and other chemicals, visit chemicalsafetyfacts.org.
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