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Chemistry can help young athletes hit the ground running in more ways than you might think. Chemistry creates many of the back to school products and supplies that can help keep kids safe as they head back to school and back to their favorite athletic activities – whether it’s track, gymnastics, swimming, soccer or other athletics.

Below are a few examples of how chemical ingredients in sporting products may help athletes win, on and off the playing field:

Buzz off bugs:

As autumn begins, summer pests like mosquitos, biting flies, chiggers and gnats can still be a major irritant for young athletes. The four most common compounds approved in the U.S. as insect repellent ingredients are DEET, Icaridin, Citrioldiol and IR3535. Each compound has slightly different characteristics but all work in similar ways — producing an odor that repels certain annoying insects. Of these, DEET is one of the most popular insect repellent ingredients—an estimated 30 percent of Americans use DEET products every year.

What you need to know about insect repellents and safety:

Read the CDC’s factsheet on DEET.

 

Keep the sun at bay:

Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean kids should skimp on sunscreen. To protect skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, health experts agree that sunscreen use is important – in all four seasons. Sunscreens often include the active ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which protect a person’s skin by deflecting the sun’s rays. Titanium dioxide is often a primary ingredient in sunscreen because the compound works well as a UV filtering ingredient.

What you need to know about sunscreen and safety:

 

Head in the game:

Plastic helmets and other sports gear use innovative materials to help protect kids from injury on the playing fields. Helmet linings made from expanded polystyrene in different layers and densities enable helmets to absorb impact. The helmet’s shell – often made with polycarbonate – is durable and shatter resistant, but still lightweight, adding important protection for student athletes.

What you need to know about sports equipment and safety:

  • The CDC suggests that kids and teens wear the right protective equipment for the sports and recreational activities they play. Ask a qualified coach or physical education teacher about the best types of safety gear for a particular sport.
  • According to CDC, concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity, even if your child is wearing protective gear, so it’s important to learn the warning signs. Learn about concussion signs and symptoms and what to do if a concussion occurs here.
  • Learn more about the best types of helmets for different types of activities on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

 

Play it safe:

Thanks to biochemistry, a flu shot or a measles vaccination can help keep student athletes in the game!  In fact, all school-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines to ensure long-term health. According to the CDC, routine immunizations given to the 78.6 million children born in the U.S. over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses and 21 million hospitalizations.

What you need to know about vaccines and safety:

  • The FDA regulates the development, testing and licensing of vaccine ingredients through a rigorous multiphase approval process that can take 10 or more years.
  • FDA continuously monitors vaccine safety even after approval.
  • Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications. The flu vaccine offers the best defense, according to the CDC.
  • Check with your school district to see what vaccines are required before your child starts school.

Take a closer look at vaccine safety and chemical ingredients.

Want more back to school chemistry? Learn six ways chemistry helps kids get back to school.