Tomorrow is National Get Outdoors Day. Now that the weather has warmed up, getting outside is a welcomed change in most parts of the country.
But getting outdoors has its own set of challenges – from bug bites to sunburn. Here’s a quick rundown on how to stay safe when heading outdoors, especially if you’re pregnant.
Bugs that bite and spread diseases
Ticks – In many areas of the country, especially wooded areas or places with high grass, Lyme disease is spread by ticks. Untreated Lyme disease can have cause complications during pregnancy.
Mosquitos – If you’re traveling, be sure to check the CDC’s map to see if the Zika virus is active in the area where you are heading. The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids like blood or semen. If you’re pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area. Zika virus during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.
What should you do?
Use an insect repellant (a product that keeps insects from biting you), like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA). All EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions are checked to make sure they’re safe and work well.
Make sure the product contains one or more of these substances that are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535 and 2-undecanone. If the product contains DEET, make sure it has at least 20 percent (20%) DEET.
Don’t put bug spray or lotion on your skin under clothes. If you use sunscreen, put it on before the spray or lotion.
If you have children: Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but don’t use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years. Don’t put the spray or lotion on your baby’s hands or near her eyes or mouth. Don’t put the spray or lotion on cut, sore or sensitive skin.
Protect yourself from the sun
Nothing will stop your outdoor fun faster than a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, especially if you are pregnant. During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.
What can you do?
Before heading outside, lather up with a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Use only products that have UVA and UVB or Broad Spectrum protection products. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors and reapply every 2 hours.
If you’re sensitive to sunscreens, try one with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as they are not as irritating to the skin. You can also cover up by wearing long sleeves and pants, and a wide brimmed hat.
Don’t use products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen. It’s important to reapply sunblock every two hours. If you use a combination product, you’ll be reapplying the bug repellant chemicals as well – not good. Too much bug repellant can be toxic. So, to be on the safe side, keep these products separate, or use the combination product once, and then apply sunblock only every two hours afterward.
Don’t choose a product with retinyl palmitate, especially if you are pregnant. This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with birth defects.
Check the expiration date and don’t use it if it is expired. If your sunscreen does not have a date, write one on your bottle after purchasing. Sunscreens retain their original strength for three years.
Here are tips for keeping your baby safe while outdoors.
With a little planning and care, you can get outdoors and enjoy yourself tomorrow. Enjoy!