Thank you to Jen Eden for this guest post about summer safety.

In about two weeks, I’ll send three of my four kids to sleepaway camp. Which means that, in about two weeks, my youngest, a feisty seven-year-old, will finally get what he’s always wanted—to be the eldest kid at home (alas, the only kid at home, but he’ll take what he can get).

Sibling idiosyncrasies aside, the summer of 2014 will see the little guy whooping it up with his local pals and hanging tight with Mom and Dad, while the others will be having a blast in their bunks in the mountains, away from parental eyes.

But one of the things that my kids will have in common these next eight weeks is how they’ll protect themselves from the summer sun and pesky skeeters. Because I know about the many worrisome chemicals that fill bottles of conventional sunscreens and bug sprays, all my kids will use safer alternatives to guard their bodies, inside and out. So, whether they’re splashing around in a city park or swimming in a glistening lake, they’ll have the most effective and least toxic sunscreens and bug repellents.

Check out these 6 tips for the safest ways to protect your own family from the harmful rays of the sun:

  1. AVOID Oxbenzone and Octinoxate, both of which are known hormone disruptors as well as allergens
  2. AVOID Vitamin A as well as Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol (forms of Vitamin A), all of which can hasten the development of cancerous tumors when exposed to UV rays
  3. AVOID aerosol sunscreens, which can be inhaled into the lungs
  4. CHOOSE sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection. This means defense against UVA and UVB rays, both of which are implicated in causing sun damage, including deadly melanomas
  5. CHOOSE mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the main ingredients
  6. CHOOSE sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 to 50; apply one ounce to all exposed parts 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming/excessive sweating

JEN’S PICKS: Badger (my all-time fave), The Honest Co.Aubrey OrganicsBabo BotanicalsKiss My Face (Mineral Formula)

And what about those bugs?

This issue is a bit trickier, as most ingredients (whether a synthetic chemical like DEET or a naturally occurring ingredient such as lemon-eucalyptus oil) is only sometimes 100% effective and have meaningful pros and cons.

It is important to remember that babies under 6 months should not be exposed to bug repellants and that children under 3 should not use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or its derivative, PMD.

If your children will be in areas not known for bug-borne diseases (and they don’t mind a couple of bug bites), then no aggressive ingredient is required. Options like Badger Anti-Bug Shake and Spray or Bert’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent should do just fine (always do a skin test before using fully, as even these botanical repellents can cause allergic reactions).

But while it’s best to avoid areas known for Lyme disease-transmitting ticks and to steer clear of standing water where West Nile-transmitting mosquitos might be nesting, that’s not always possible. If children are venturing into territory that might harbor such problems, it is vital that they wear hats, long sleeves and pants tucked into socks. And it’s also important that the proper repellent protects them for the circumstances.

The Environmental Working Group does a great job of laying out the scenarios and offering the most appropriate options, including details on the recommended ingredients and the safest ways to handle them. Take a look at EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents for Kids, and you’ll be ready to send your kids around the block or across the country for some happy and safe summer fun.

About the Author

Jennifer Eden created JenerationEden with one goal: getting you to live as healthfully and as free from environmental toxicants as possible. As a mother of four, Jen has passionately researched the very compelling issue of environmental health and has discovered the safest products available for you, your children and your home.