KidsOutAndAbout reviews Insect Shield and Coolibar clothing for kids
Shield your kids from the sun, and from bugs, with protection woven right into the fabric!
by Anne Siller
We are in the midst of summer, a time filled with rain and warmth and trees and grass and birds and flowers. It's the time of year when I can swoop down into my living room like a giant heron and flip the switch. Outside, Mr. Marvin K. Mooney! That’s right, you heard me! You, you, and even you behind the chair! I see you! It's time to shut the TV off and slip out the back, Jack! The sun is shining! So OUT YOU GO!
It is delightful to throw one’s children out into the yard, is it not? But, to quote Woody Allen, I am at two with nature.
This time of year, children belong outside. It's warm and inviting. Adventure awaits. But the days when kids can stay out all day with impunity don’t exist any more, especially for my own brood: Due in part to centuries of Anglo-Saxon inbreeding, my sons and daughter need to be dipped in a vat of sunscreen before they hit the yard. And because we live deep in the Hudson Valley of New York State, our yard is well-traveled by deer...ah, those most-majestic creatures who razor every flower in the garden in less than 10 minutes while simultaneously carpet-bombing the lawn with tics and other delightful specimens.
Really, it’s a jungle out there. So leaving the house requires some thought.
Sometimes—quite often, actually—some company full of geniuses figures out a way to best Mother Nature. Many claim to do so, and some actually do. There are many examples of this throughout history, but right now, I am grateful to be able to cite two: the people at Coolibar, who make clothing embedded with broad-spectrum sun screen, and the people at Insect Shield, who have made insect-repellent clothing.
Coolibar: Sun Protection without the ICK
Certainly, our cultural attitudes have changed about the benefits of sun protection, especially in regard to our children. It is best to take the long view. Sun damage is accumulated over a lifetime, and it is essential to start preventing it early.
The American Cancer Society recommends the SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, and WRAP approach: Before going out in the sun, SLIP on protective clothing, SLOP on some sunscreen, SLAP on a hat and WRAP on some sunglasses.
Coolibar clothing can be part of this plan. They offer a children’s wear line that consists of swimwear, beachwear, and sportswear made with SUNTECT® fabric, which blocks 98% of UVA and UVB rays. It stands up to salt water, fresh water, chlorine and the washing machine. Much of the swimwear includes rash guard and the sports shirts provide moisture wicking. It provides the equivalent of UPF50+.
One of the biggest benefits of COOLIBAR? The fabric is lightweight and flexible, so kids don’t feel like they are wrapped in a wet blanket when they come out of the pool or off the soccer field. These clothes don’t preclude the need for sunscreen, but they cover a lot of surface area, which makes sunscreen application (really, a daily battle in my house and many others) much easier.
In short: I feel better knowing that Coolibar is protecting my three little redheads from Mr. Golden Sun.
In my area, another major concern are tick bites; the CDC map to the right shows where Lyme Disease (a tick-borne illness) had spread as of 2011. We're right in the bullseye. Such is the risk for us that even after just playing in our yard, everybody has to go through a “tick check.” And while not every tick bite results in Lyme disease, each one does present its own set of problems, most notably how to get the thing off your child. One only has to chase around a screaming 5-year-old with tweezers and a vat of Vasoline once to realize the benefits of prevention.
West Nile Virus incidence is higher in other parts of the country (see the map to the left also from the CDC). It is a mosquito-borne virus that is more prevalent in the Midwest and South. We have our ticks, in Texas y'all have your skeeters.
Enter Insect Shield.
Insect Shield creates insect-repellent clothing that has proven effective against not just ticks but many bugs, including fleas, ants, flies and that notorious vector for disease, mosquitoes. They use a patent-pending process by which a formulation of the insect repellant permethrin is embedded in clothing. The “shield” lasts through 70 launderings, the life of the garment. (Did you read that? Through 70 washes!) As they say in their brochure, the insect repellant is near your skin, but not on it. I particularly loved the clothes and socks--they are especially indispensable when we go camping or hiking. They make a walk through the woods less worrisome for me: Nobody has to get sprayed with something that is labeled as highly flammable.
Can you guess what the first thing everyone does when I show them one of our hats or bandannas treated with Insect Shield? That's right: They smell it. Know what it smells like? Nothing. The fabric smells like... fabric. And not even like fabric that's been treated with preservatives, like new sheets. They smell like anything your kids might put on that morning.
Of course, the ultimate question is: Does it work? As far as I can tell, it does. I think it wouldn't provide perfect protection in extreme circumstances--if, say, we walked into a cloud of bugs, it's not as though the bugs would all flee, shrieking. But for a normal walk through the woods, if my kids have on their Insect Shield socks and tees, and either a hat or the bandanna, I'm comfortable. And so are they!
Thank you, science.
For SUN PROTECTION: The Coolibar catalog offers many other sun protection products, like hats and sunglasses as well, for every member of the family. Think LL Bean or Land's End in terms of both style and pricing. For women, the clothing is mostly sporty but includes some dresses. The same for men--minus the dresses. For kids, a decent level of sporty clothing variety, but some great hats for toddlers and babies, and lots of nice swimsuits.
For BUG PROTECTION: Insect Shield clothing is sold through lots of retailers, like Amazon, LL Bean, Gander Mtn, Dick's Sporting Goods, and many others. Here is a list from the Insect Shield web site. You can also check out their online catalog here (socks! buy socks! love the socks!). Their youth clothing section is here -- not a huge variety, though there are hats and tees for both girls and boys. Oh! And I just noticed! They have outdoor blankets with Insect Shield! I need one of THOSE! (A great idea for a present from Grandma!)
Of course, when my kids leave the house, the sun and the bugs are just two items on a list of worries. I can’t do much about the neighbor’s dog, or traffic, or flash floods. Not yet, anyway, though I bet someone somewhere is working on it. So, for now, let us manage what we can, with the tools that we have, and let the kids heed the Call of the Wild.