Best Bets for Sunscreen and Bug Spray

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Kids might be getting ready to head back to school soon, but there's still plenty of summer left when it comes to the sun's strong rays and biting bugs. So it's important to make sure you are properly protecting your child.

UNC Pediatric Dermatologist Craig Burkhart's had this advice: "Sunscreens, you want to be SPF 30 or greater, broad spectrum, ideally water resistant, and you want to reapply every two hours, that's important with kids."

Dr. Burkhart says this is crucial to protecting kids ages six months and up.

"Extreme sun exposure, extreme ultraviolet exposure increases your child's risk for skin cancer usually ten years down the line, so any exposure to radiation is usually a delayed effect before you get your cancers," he pointed out.

However, there is some growing debate over certain ingredients used in sunscreen. It's a topic that has surfaced on parenting blogs recently and making headlines online.

Even one local pediatrician with Oberlin Road Pediatrics has been passing out a handout with information courtesy of the Environmental Working Group. It cautioned parents to avoid products with oxybenzone and benzophenone-3.

But Dr. Burkhart said he and the American Academy of Pediatrics feel these are perfectly safe when used per the instructions.

"The chemical blockers are safe in kids if you use them appropriately. If the kid drinks it or bathes in it that might lead to toxicity, but they've been shown to be safe for kids down to six months in age."

And if you're still concerned, you can always opt for sunscreens with what are called 'physical blockers,' namely titanium and zinc.

As for bug spray, Dr. Burkhart said to put that on after your sunscreen. He said it's safe for children as young as 2 months old, including products with DEET.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you stay below 30 percent concentration when you apply to children. Don't put it on their hands, don't put it around their eyes, mouths, or on open wounds," he explained.

And, if you're concerned about using DEET, you can opt for natural alternatives such as lemon eucalyptus oil. Dr. Burkhart said those are also safe, but may need to be reapplied more often.

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