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Experts offer advice about bug spray, flip flops and other summertime kid care

Experts from the Indiana University School of Medicine and Riley Hospital for Children offer suggestions to help keep bugs, sunburn, overscheduling, rashes and foot concerns from dampening summer fun for kids.



Photo by Danya Martiuk

It's insect season! There are many products for sale such as wristbands soaked in chemical repellants or backyard bug zappers that will NOT protect your child from pesky bugs, according to Riley Hospital pediatric dermatologist Patricia Treadwell, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine professor of pediatrics. What does work? A chemical called DEET repels insects, but she notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children should contain no more than 30 percent DEET. Insect repellents are not recommended for infants under 2 months of age.

Spray or rub on? SPF 8, SPF 100?

What kind of sunscreen is best for children? Treadwell says that a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and which is broad spectrum, providing protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, is best.

"It doesn't matter whether its spray or rub on," she said. "What matters is that the skin is well and repeatedly protected, even on cloudy days. Parents should encourage their children to play in the shade as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is most damaging to human skin."

Easy breezy summer?

The kids are out of school and many parents have put together elaborate daily schedules to keep their offspring busy from morning until night. Riley Hospital for Children psychologist Michele Thorne, IU School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry, says parents should let their kids know that it's a good idea to take a little down time during a busy day.

"While they may love ballet lessons, swimming and softball, kids can be overwhelmed by constant activity," she said. "Even after a kid has aged out of nap time, a quiet time without distractions helps kids (and adults!) cope with their hectic days."

To Flip flop or not

Flip flops are getting a bad rap, according to Riley Hospital for Children pediatrician Michael McKenna, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, who says that wearing the popular summer shoe does not lead to joint pain, shin splints and twisted ankles any more than any other style of shoe. In fact, he notes, flip flops are better than high heels.

"Flip flops are a fine choice in warm weather," he said. "What is important is protecting the foot. Flips flops are not the best choice for walking on very hot pavement, on rocky trails or, in spite of teen insistence to the contrary, in cold winter months."

Wash those hands

Summer is rash season -- viruses that cause diarrhea thrive in warm weather and young children are often lax about washing hands that they then put into their mouths. The result can be a nasty rash. McKenna suggests that parents be extra vigilant about hand washing with soap and water or, if not accessible, with a hand sanitizer. To ensure that young children spend sufficient time on hand washing, he encourages parents to teach their children to sing the ABC song slowly as they lather.

About Riley Hospital for Children

As one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals and Indiana's first and only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of children, Riley Hospital for Children, a part of Clarian Health, has provided compassionate care, support and comfort to children and their families for 85 years. Each year, Riley Hospital and Riley Hospital at Clarian North serve more than 215,000 inpatients and outpatients from across Indiana, the nation and the world. Riley Hospital's partnership with Clarian Health, and its strong affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine, makes it the only comprehensive clinical resource for Indiana's children and the premiere source for health-related information for their parents. From simple care associated with the health and wellness of children and less complex specialty care to the most critically-ill and medically complex cases, Riley Hospital for Children is a national leader. Clarian Health operates the Methodist Hospital, Indiana University Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children campuses as a single hospital under Indiana law. Visit for more information.