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Summer skincare 101: A guide for parents

Protecting your child's skin is a year-round concern, but it's especially important in the summer months when so much skin is exposed and vulnerable. We've got the scoop on the most common skin conditions dermatologists see from their young patients in the summer. Check out the list to see how you can help prevent these conditions in your child, or how to treat the issue if needed.

1. Sunburn

No matter how long your child is outdoors, it is important to protect skin from the sun's harmful rays. Although sunburns may seem like a temporary condition, even a few episodes of sunburn can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life, as well as cause short-term pain and discomfort.

How to Prevent: You and your child should always generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. For maximum protection, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, or after getting skin wet. It is also important to wear protective clothing (hats, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, etc.) and seek shade when appropriate.

How to Treat: Put a cold, damp towel on your child's skin for 10-15 minutes a few times a day to help take some of the heat out of the skin. Your child can also take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain. Be sure to apply a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin – avoid any lotions or creams that contain: petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. Your child should also drink extra water to prevent dehydration. The most important thing to remember is to take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals. If sunburned, your child should wear clothing with tightly-woven fabric that covers skin when outdoors.

2. Poison Rash

Technically, poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak aren't poisonous, but many people are allergic to the plant's oil, urushiol. An allergic reaction to any of these plants is diagnosed as contact dermatitis, which can be caused by touching these plants, touching something that rubbed up against the plants, or even being near the plants as the oil can get in the air.

How to Prevent: The biggest factor in preventing an allergic reaction is being aware of your surroundings. You should teach your child what each of these plants look like so they can avoid directly touching the plants and are aware in heavily wooded or high-grass areas.

How to Treat: If your child comes into contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac, wash their skin with soap and water immediately to remove irritating oils. You should also wash clothes, shoes, and even pets – anything that could have come into contact with the plants and their oils. If a rash occurs, you can help relieve itchiness with cool compresses, calamine lotion and/or oral antihistamine. It is important that children do not scratch or pop blisters as this can lead to an infection. If the rash is severe (covers more than 10-20% of the body, gets worse, is reoccurring or doesn't go away after two weeks), your child may need a prescription-strength steroid from a dermatologist.

3. Bug Bites & Stings

Unfortunately, children are more likely to have bigger reactions to bug bites. And bug bites and stings can lead to something scarier. If your child has an itchy bug bite or sting, be watchful to ensure they aren't scratching – scratching a bug bite until it bleeds can lead to an infection.

How to Prevent: The CDC recommends using bug repellents that contain DEET, picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Insect repellents specifically formulated for children will contain a lower percentage of DEET than adult formulas, making them safe to use for younger age groups. If camping, ensure your family sleeps inside or in a screened in area (like a tent).

How to Treat: Most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch. However, if your child has a bug bite that is unusually itchy or feels painful, consult with a dermatologist.

4. Molluscum Virus

While not particularly dangerous, molluscum is annoying. The only sign of molluscum is pink or flesh-colored bumps on the skin, which can last for up to five years. It thrives in under chlorinated water, which is why it occurs so often over the summer. The virus can be passed from skin-to-skin contact, as well as by sharing towels and clothing.

How to Prevent: Preventing molluscum can be tricky. Whenever you see bumps on the skin, molluscum is contagious. If your child is swimming, check with the pool owner to make sure that they are properly chlorinating it. After swimming, it is also important to wash off as soon as you get out of the pool. Maintaining good hygiene is also a way to prevent molluscum (as well as many other viruses).

How to Treat: Molluscum can go away without treatment, but it can take a long time (up to five years as mentioned above). A board-certified dermatologist can also treat the molluscum virus.

5. Heat Rash

Heat rash is a red or pink rash on the skin often caused when your child is dressed too warmly for the weather. Basically, your child's sweat ducts get clogged up and red bumps will appear, especially in the skin folds. First-time moms often make the mistake of bundling up newborns too much in the warmer months.

How to Prevent: Make sure you dress your child in layers to you can easily remove unneeded clothing.

How to Treat: Usually the rash disappears soon after you cool down the skin by removing excess clothing and blankets. Never put cream or ointment on a heat rash because that will further clog the pores and make the rash worse.

The descriptions and images are not meant to serve as a diagnosis. You can get a personalized treatment plan and appropriate prescriptions for your child online from our network of board-certified dermatologists. Consult with a dermatologist now.