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Nurse's Tips: Skin Safety
  • Nurse's Tips
Sarah Beckmann, School Nurse

Taking care of mosquito bites, sunburns, and itchy skin can feel like a full time job! Here are some tips from our school nurse on how to handle common skin ailments our children face.

A common complaint I hear from our students is itchy mosquito bites. After a quick application of Calamine lotion, kids are happy to return to class with a “pink polka dot.” In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, spending more time outside, and extra standing water in our communities, I do worry about the potential problems associated with insect bites and sun exposure.

At St. Mark’s, we want our students and families to be safe, so we do encourage use of sunscreen and insect repellent. We advise parents help children with application each morning. If your child is responsible enough, you may send these products to school to keep in backpacks for re-applying when needed; I especially encourage this practice for our extended day students. However, please keep in mind the following important guidelines for use at school:

  • Please understand that our teachers are not able to help with application. The time it would take to apply for all children in a class would significantly cut into education or important play time.
  • Clearly label anything sent to school with your child’s name, and remind your child NOT to share sunscreen or insect repellent. Children have a variety of allergies and sensitivities that sometimes include ingredients in these products.
  • Do NOT send aerosol products to school. Squirt bottles, lotions, and wipes are all good options to consider. Inhaling a “fog” of product is not good for anyone, and some of our students are especially sensitive.
  • Help your child learn to apply these products independently and quickly. Make sure they understand the importance of washing their hands with soap and water after applying, especially before eating.
  • If your child is especially sensitive to the sun, or if you have other unique concerns, please speak with me.


A few bonus tips for preventing sun damage and insect bites:

  • Sunscreen is a safe and effective way to protect against the damaging effects related to UV radiation.
    • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. Additional protection with a lip balm containing sunscreen is also advised.
  • The best protection from mosquitoes:
    • DEET is a preferred repellent due to its long history of safety and efficacy. Mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are only repelled by DEET concentrations of at least 20%, so look for products with a high concentration. Additionally, DEET concentrations of 10% only protect for 2 hours, while 30% DEET protects for about 6 hours.
    • Permethrin is a pesticide that can be applied to clothing or backpacks only. Follow label instructions closely, and do NOT apply to skin or items that will touch food.
    • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. This repellent is effective against mosquitoes, but is ONLY safe for children over 3 years old.
    • A great way to prevent mosquito bites is to reduce standing water around your homes as much as possible. Mosquitos can breed in as little as a bottlecap full of water.
  • Concerns with other insect repellent products:
    • Bracelets (and similar products) ONLY work if there is zero wind. Even then, they may not provide adequate protection.
    • Combination sunscreen-insect repellent products have mixed reviews on how effective they are at prevention, so it’s best to avoid for now.
    • There are many other products available, but they may or may not be as effective against mosquitoes, especially those that carry Zika virus.
  • Application technique is important!
    • Apply sunscreen first, allow to dry, then apply insect repellent.
    • Use more sunscreen, and apply more frequently! Most people don’t apply enough to sufficiently protect against harmful rays. About 1 ounce of lotion will cover all exposed areas thoroughly. Reapplication every 2-3 hours is a good guideline if you’re out in the sun.
    • It doesn’t take much insect repellent to do the job, but some mosquitoes are able to find a tiny unprotected area of exposed skin. “Fogging” with repellent is not necessary, but you’ll want to apply to an exposed area, rub in, then repeat for other exposed areas.
    • Avoid applying all products to the hands of small children, and avoid applying insect repellent to the face, especially near the eyes and mouth.

If you ever have questions about these or other health topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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