Protect your children from the sun and mosquitos
Heading outdoors with your children? Or to one of the many outdoor playgrounds in Singapore? Even though it’s good to be outdoors, there are precautions to take too, such as hydrating our bodies well and protecting our skin from the sun. This is especially pertinent in Singapore, which is near the Equator and has one of the highest ultraviolet (UV) index scores in the world. There are also mosquitos out to sting too. So before you head out to enjoy the benefits of outdoor play, remember to protect your children from the sun and mosquitos!
Jump to the relevant section:
- Sun Safety: Protect your child from the sun
- Stop the Itch and Dengue: Use Mosquito Repellant
- Related Post: Benefits of Outdoors and List of outdoor playgrounds in Singapore (2022)
Sun Safety: Protect your child from the sun
Ways to protect ourselves from the Sun
To reduce future risk of skin cancer and eye damage, protect you and your child by these simple steps:
- Go outdoors only during the early morning or late afternoon hours. UV levels are at their highest between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
- Wear protective clothing that covers the body, such as long-sleeved shirts, cotton pants, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses that can block UVA/UVB rays. A wrap-around pair of sunglasses would provide more protection.
- Carry an umbrella if possible.
- Use sunblock or sunscreen. (read on for how to choose and how to use it the right way for protection).
Choose the right sunscreen/sunblock
TL;DR: Get broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunblock that’s water-resistant and comes with at least SPF 30 and a PA level of +++, preferably mineral ingredients for children. The reasons are as follows:
- Broad-spectrum: UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays cause most sunburn. Both types can lead to skin cancer. Hence, American Dermatology Association (ADA) recommends broad-spectrum protection which protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- UVB protection (SPF 30): Other than being water resistant, ADA recommends a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher for protection against UVB rays. According to cancer.org, sunscreens of SPF 15 filter out about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 about 97%, SPF 50 about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. No sunscreen can block out 100%.
- UVA protection (PA +++): Get those with a PA level of +++. This is the protection grade of UVA rays.
- Mineral Ingredients: The sunscreen can either contains mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide or chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. Mineral ingredients might be gentler on children or those with sensitive skin, as they cause less skin irritation.
Put on sunscreen/sunblock the right way
- How much sunscreen to apply? Two fingers length of sunscreen on your face. Or to be more specific, here’s a suggestion from CNA lifestyle:
- Half teaspoon for both the face and neck
- 1 teaspoon for both upper limbs
- 2 teaspoons for both lower limbs
- When to apply sunscreen?
- “Marinate” your skin with sunscreen for 15-30 minutes before exposing yourself to UV.
- Even on cloudy days because most of the UV rays can still get through the clouds.
- Speaking of which, UVA rays can penetrate through windows in houses, offices and cars. So either apply your sunscreen or close those curtains.
- When to re-apply the sunscreen?
- Two hours, or more frequent if under strong sunshine.
- After swimming or sweating.
- Sunscreen for infants below 6 months old – yay or nay? It depends on your comfort level. I have read articles saying no, just keep them covered up or place them in shade. Then there is this article by Raffles Medical Group which suggests sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on small areas of the body, such as the face if covering up is not a choice. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are preferred.
Thoughts on Vitamin D
Don’t worry about not getting vitamin D with sunblock. Instead of getting Vitamin D from the sun, ADA suggests getting it safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.
According to skincancer.org, a minor amount of sun exposure produces all the vitamin D your body needs. Unprotected sun exposure of 10 to 15 minutes to arms, legs, abdomen and back, two to three times a week is sufficient.
Stop the Itch and Dengue: Use Mosquito Repellant
With more mosquitos and thus a surge in dengue in Singapore, it’s pertinent you apply mosquito repellent before heading outdoors. For us, we either apply mosquito repellent cream or spray the mosquito repellent all over our bodies. These topical repellents provide the exposed skin with a “barrier” against mosquitoes. We also use a mosquito patch as an extra precaution and not as a standalone because it seems to protect a small surrounding radius.
Choose the right insect repellent
General guidelines to choose a topical repellent. Choose a repellent that
- Contains DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), picaridin or IR3535 as active ingredients. These ingredients are more effective in repelling mosquitoes and/or have longer mosquito-repelling effects than “natural” repellents that use plant-based extracts, such as citronella, eucalyptus and other essential oils.
- Has no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide on the label). Concentrations higher than 30% are not more effective and high amounts of it can be toxic. According to HealthHub.sg, choose repellents that contain
- 20 to 35% DEET for adults
- 7 to 20% for children
- is not a single product containing both sunscreen and DEET. As you read above, you need to reapply sunscreen often, but apply DEET less frequent or only once a day (depending on the product).
- Products registered with NEA will bear a unique registration mark in the form of ‘SINNEA-X-XXX/XXX/XXXX’ and a registration logo.
- Read the product labels and pick one that suits your needs. Note that certain products are labelled as mosquito repellent while others are labelled as insect repellent that protects against mosquitoes and other insects such as biting flies, gnats, ticks, chiggers, and fleas
- Do not use expired products.
Is DEET safe for children?
Insect repellents containing DEET have been tested and approved as safe for kids older than 2 months.kidshealth.org
DEET is safe for children.
This is also evidenced by the giving of DEET-based mosquito repellent to all students in preschools, primary, and secondary schools in Singapore by National Environment Agency (NEA) and Temasek Foundation. This repellent contains 10% DEET which provides up to 3 hours of protection against insect and mosquito bites.
Even for pregnant ladies, less than 10% of DEET is absorbed through the skin and studies have shown that it will not harm the unborn baby. If worried, use a repellant with a low concentration of DEET and apply it on the clothing instead of the skin.
Apply mosquito repellent the right way
Follow the directions on the label. Below are some questions and general guidelines to apply mosquito repellent.
What are the things to note when applying?
- Apply the repellent in an open area to avoid breathing in the repellent.
- Test repellent on a small area of skin ﬁrst (e.g. inside of elbow), to ensure no allergic reactions.
- Apply sunscreen first followed by repellent.
- Wash hands with soap immediately after each application.
Where to apply it to the body?
- Apply DEET to all exposed skin, as well as clothing and shoes.
- Do NOT apply to these areas:
- under clothing.
- eyes, and mouth. Be careful to avoid them when applying sunscreen on your child’s face.
- cuts or irritated skin.
- on the hands of young children. They might touch and irritate their eyes, or put their hands in their mouth and swallow the repellent.
How to spray the repellent for protection?
- Hold 15-20 cm away from the skin and spray in a slow sweeping motion.
- Spread evenly on exposed skin.
- Spray on clothing to prevent bites through clothing. Do not spray into the air.
- Wash hands with soap immediately after each application.
For instructions with photos, or to print it out, refer to www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/guidelines-on-use-of-mosquito-repellent.pdf
How much to apply and often to re-apply?
A higher concentration of DEET means it will last longer. So you may consider higher concentration when you and your children are outside for more than an hour or two.
Generally, repellent with DEET should be applied only once a day. However, the efficacy of topical repellents might be affected by sweat, water or rubbing of skin on clothing, etc. Re-apply the repellent according to the product label. For example, the free bottle that NEA gave out to students in Singapore.
Other ways to repel mosquitos
For extra protection against mosquitos, cover exposed skin with long sleeves and long pants, or wear light-coloured clothing as dark-coloured clothing attracts more mosquitos and heat.
When indoors, mosquito nets over beds, window netting, air-conditioner, and/or mosquito coils or electronic repellents give you added protection too. However, these spatial repellents may emit chemicals that may aggravate asthma or cause respiratory irritations. So use with caution.
Stay safe and keep the mosquitos and dengue away!
(Source: www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/guidelines-on-use-of-mosquito-repellent.pdf and www.nea.gov.sg/dengue-zika/stop-dengue-now/use-of-mosquito-repellents, kidshealth.org/en/parents/repellent.html, www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1731/mozzie-woes-dengue, www.cgs.gov.sg/blockdengue/repellent/tips)
Before you go…
Head over to my previous post to find out more about the benefits of the outdoors for children. Also, let my list of outdoor playgrounds in Singapore inspire you on places to bring your children. 🙂 Remember to protect yourself from the sun and mosquitos while enjoying the benefits of outdoor play!
Let me know if this post has been helpful, or if I have missed out on any precautions or benefits. Leave your comment in the comments section below. 🙂
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