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Spring Break Essentials

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Winter is quietly receding and for many spring break is here or in sight!  I only wish that I still had a spring break but with everyone grown up, spring break is no longer on my calendar. But for those of you lucky enough to be traveling, you may want to pack a few key items.

Bug spray:  If the beach or an exotic tropical locale is your destination you will need to pack bug spray. Interestingly, insect repellent products are not regulated by the FDA, but rather by the EPA. The ingredients in bug sprays, that are registered with EPA for use on the skin include: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, oil of citronella, and IR3535.

DEET is the most commonly available insect repellent that is used in the U.S. DEET products are available in different concentrations ranging from 6% - 98%. It is generally accepted that the higher the concentration of DEET the longer the duration of protection.  Some studies have suggested that the duration of protection from DEET may plateau at a concentration of 50%. I would start with a lower concentration product depending on how long my exposure was planned to be.

There are definitely differences among mosquito species as well,  some really are more aggressive than others. DEET effectiveness may also be compromised by higher temperatures, amount of perspiration,humidity, wind speed and swimming. The AAP also states that DEET products may be used in children as young as 2 months of age.

Picaridin is also an effective non-DEET insect repellent and my be found in products with varying concentrations from 7% - 20%, and again the duration of protection increases with higher concentrations of picaridin.

Sunscreen:  Whether you are heading to the mountains for skiing and snow activities or the beach you need to pack sunscreen. Ultraviolet light is composed of both UVA and UVB rays.  UVA causes phototoxicity and aging and UVB produces sunburns. They can both produces changes to DNA and cause skin cancer.

Sunscreens containing several ingredients which together are capable of absorbing both UVA and UVB rays are called broad spectrum and are preferred. Think of SPF really as “sunburn protection factor” as it really only refers to UVB protection.

To date the FDA has not regulated a product’s ability to protect from UVA rays, new guidelines may be forthcoming. I would look for a product that is labeled “broad spectrum” with a SPF of at least 15 (and at least 30 SPF for the face). Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and that it should be reapplied every 2 -4 hours while in the sun. Remember there are UV rays even on cloudy days!! (hard to convince a teen of that.

If you need both bug and sun protection apply the sunscreen first and let it be absorbed, then apply the insect repellent. Do not use a product that contains both as you do not need to reapply bug spray like you do sunscreen. 

Safe travels!  



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